An accused member of the Proud Boys who was charged in the Capitol riots argued Tuesday that a lawyer’s offensive comments about his fellow defendants’ mental states will “directly impact” his right to a fair trial.
Christopher Kuehne, 47, is charged with conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, as well as impeding or interfering with law enforcement during the commission of a civil disorder during the January 6 insurrection. Kuehne has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Though Kuehne was set to be prosecuted alongside five co-defendants in a joint jury trial, his attorney, Marina Medvin, filed a motion Tuesday asking a judge to sever his case from the group and grant Kuehne a separate trial.
Melvin argued Kuehne’s case should be separated because two of his co-defendants are represented by the lawyer Albert Watkins, whose comments to Talking Points Memo went viral earlier Tuesday.
“A lot of these defendants – and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully – but they’re all f—ing short-bus people,” Watkins told the publication. “These are people with brain damage, they’re f—ing retarded, they’re on the goddamn spectrum.”
He continued: “But they’re our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our coworkers – they’re part of our country. These aren’t bad people, they don’t have prior criminal history. F—, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since f—ing Hitler.”
Watkins didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Watkins is best known for representing Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman pictured at the Capitol clad in a headdress with horns and face paint. Watkins also represents Felicia and Cory Konold, who are accused alongside Kuehne of forcing their way into the Capitol and ensuring the building’s underground tunnels remained open for other rioters to pass through.
Kuehne’s lawyer argued that Watkins’ comments were “highly inflammatory and derogatory.” Trying Kuehne alongside the Konolds would be “inherently unfair,” she wrote in the filing.
She argued the comments could essentially offer a preview into Watkins’ defense strategy for the Konolds: convincing the jury they are not mentally competent.
“Unlike his codefendants, Mr. Kuehne’s defense strategy does not include self-degradation, nor an insanity plea,” Medvin wrote in her filing.
She continued: “The statements of co-defendants’ counsel are as shockingly inculpatory as they are irredeemably insulting. Unlike his co-defendants, Mr. Kuehne is not willing to throw in the towel, nor to throw an entire political party under the bus through cheap ‘Nazi’ comparisons.”
The outspoken lawyer for one of the Capitol attack’s alleged participants is claiming his client and his client’s alleged compatriots were especially susceptible to former President Donald Trump’s election lies due to their mental capacity.
Albert Watkins, attorney for Jacob Chansley, also known as the QAnon Shaman, delivered an offensive, expletive-laden diatribe as to why the insurrection participants took part in the deadly Capitol attack in a Talking Points Memo article published Tuesday.
“A lot of these defendants – and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully – but they’re all f—ing short-bus people,” Watkins told the outlet. “These are people with brain damage, they’re f—ing retarded, they’re on the goddamn spectrum.”
Following the insensitive insults he leveled against the accused participants, Watkins argued those specific traits make many of them deserving of sympathy, suggesting they were subjected to World-War II-levels of propaganda in the years leading up to January 6.
“But they’re our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our coworkers – they’re part of our country. These aren’t bad people, they don’t have prior criminal history,” Watkins told TPM. “F—, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since f—ing Hitler.”
In a comment to Insider, Watkins acknowledged that his statements were “politically incorrect,” but said there was “reason and purpose” behind his decision to make them.
“My long-standing pleas for compassion and understanding of those involved in the events of January 6 with mental health issues and disabilities have to date fallen on deaf ears,” Watkins told Insider.
“One charged, insensitive, and vulgar statement was all that was required to garner the needed attention to this important aspect of the January 6 defendants,” he continued. “I respectfully suggest the next few days and weeks will demonstrate the prudence of this calibrated move.”
Watkins also told TPM that his client, Chansley, had Asperger’s syndrome and said his mental state will play a role in his case.
Adorned with horns, a headdress, and face paint, Chansley became one of the most recognizable alleged rioters at the Capitol on January 6. He was photographed several times with his bullhorn and flagpole throughout the building that day. He was arrested three days later in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, and charged with two felonies and four misdemeanors, including civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.
While many of the people charged in the attack have been granted pretrial release, Chansley has remained in federal facilities since his arrest, court records say.
Earlier this year, Watkins, a St. Louis-based attorney, unsuccessfully argued for Chansley to be granted pretrial release because of the self-proclaimed shaman’s religious-based dietary needs. The lawyer also claimed COVID-19 restrictions had made “meaningful, unmonitored” consultation with Chansley impossible.
“Such media appearances are undoubtedly conducive to defense counsel’s fame,” Judge Royce Lamberth wrote. “But they are not at all conducive to an argument that the only way defense counsel could privately communicate with his client is if defendant were temporarily released.”
Some lawyers, including Watkins, told TPM that stressing Trump’s role in inciting the Capitol riot may be a path to winning lighter sentences for their clients.
More than 480 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection so far. Five people died during the insurrection, including a Capitol police officer, and a woman shot by Capitol Police. In the weeks following the attack, the head of the Capitol police officers’ union said 140 officers were injured.
One week after a federal judge decided Jacob Chansley would remain in jail until his trial, the court has released two new videos that appear to disprove one of Chansley’s claims about his participation in the January 6 insurrection.
In a jailhouse interview with “60 Minutes+” earlier this month, the self-described QAnon Shaman, his lawyer, and his mother all repeated the claim that Chansley had only entered the Capitol because police officers had “waved” protesters in, signaling to Chansley that the move was “acceptable.”
But in a March 8 motion remanding Chansley into custody, Judge Royce Lamberth skewered Chansley’s story, saying the 33-year-old “blatantly lied” about his alleged invitation into the building and referenced video footage obtained by the government that Lamberth said disproved Chansley’s claims about Capitol police officers.
“Not only is [Chansley] unable to offer evidence substantiating his claim that he was waved into the Capitol, but evidence submitted by the government proves this claim false,” Lamberth wrote. “A video submitted by the government captures protesters breaking through the windows of the Capitol building.”
On Tuesday, the court released that footage.
The two videos, first obtained by Law & Crime, depict the chaos inside and outside the US Capitol on January 6 as a pro-Trump mob appears to accost Capitol Police officers and eventually begins smashing the windows to enter the federal building en masse.
In the first video, Chansley can be seen standing on scaffolding in the air, holding an American flag as the crowd chants “stop the seal.” Chansley is easily identifiable in both videos by his outfit, which includes red, white, and blue face paint, a horned headdress, and a bare chest.
The second video depicts a similar mob near the building, screaming “this is our country!” The protesters begin banging on the windows until they shatter and then start climbing through to enter the building. At the same time, Chansley and several others can be seen entering the building through a door.
It is unclear how or when the doors were opened.
There don’t appear to be any police officers or security guards near the door as the crowd storms in, and no officers can be seen in the video waving protesters in.
“The government’s video shows that [Chansley] blatantly lied during his interview with ’60 Minutes+’ when he said that police officers waved him into the building,” Lamberth wrote. “Further this video confirms [Chansley] did not…enter, as defense counsel represents, in the ‘third wave’ of the breach. To the contrary, he quite literally spearheaded it.”
Chansley’s lawyer, Al Watkins, however, told Insider Tuesday that “it is strongly suggested the videos are one dimensional.”
“Subsequent scrutiny of the video footage (including the The New Yorker video specifically cited by the Government) has given rise to the identification of numerous ambiguities, irregularities, inconsistencies, timeline issues and concern about the assertions of the Government about the actions of Mr. Chansley based on the Government’s video footage,” Watkins said in a statement.
Watkins also issued a request for members of the public to “provide any video footage which depicts the Shaman in or around the Capitol on January 6, 2021,” and has set up an email address for the public to send any evidence, according to the outlet.
The Arizona-native is facing six charges and up to 20 years in prison over his role in the riot. In addition to accusations that he illegally trespassed when breaching the Capitol, court records claim Chansley also clashed with Capitol police officers, went into the Senate chamber, and left a note on then-Vice President Mike Pence’s dais saying “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”
Earlier this month, Chansley gave his first jailhouse interview since his arrest to CBS News’ “60 Minutes+,” telling correspondent Laurie Segall he didn’t consider his participation in the insurrection an attack on the United States.
But Chansley’s televised appearance appears to have backfired. Judge Royce Lamberth cited the interview in his Monday decision.
“The statements [Chansley] has made to the public from jail show that [he] does not fully appreciate the severity of the allegations against him,” Lamberth wrote. “To the contrary, he believes that he – not the American people or members of Congress – was the victim on January 6th.”
In the interview, Chansley said he regretted entering the Capitol building illegally, but said he thought the move was “acceptable” because police officers had “waved” protesters in – a claim prosecutors have been unable to confirm, according to court records.
Once inside the building, Chansley told Segall his actions were “peaceful” and “calm.” The 33-year-old said he “sang a song” inside the chamber and even “stopped somebody from stealing muffins out of the break room.”
But legal documents argue Chansley’s depiction of events is a mischaracterization of the role he played that day.
“[Chansley’s] perception of his actions on January 6th as peaceful, benign, and well-intentioned, shows a detachment from reality,” Lamberth said in the decision.
Chansley is currently jailed in Washington, DC, facing six charges and up to twenty years in prison over his participation in the riot. In addition to illegally trespassing as one of the alleged first rioters to breach the Capitol, court records say Chansley also clashed with Capitol police officers, went into the Senate chamber, and left a note on then-Vice President Mike Pence’s dais saying “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”
He later told FBI agents that Pence was a “child-trafficking traitor,” referring to a QAnon conspiracy theory, while Chansley’s lawyer, Al Watkins, argued in a pretrial release motion that his client’s note for Pence used words that came directly from former President Donald Trump and were not meant as a threat to Pence.
“If [Chansley] truly believes that the only reason he participated in an assault on the US Capitol was to comply with President Trump’s orders, this shows [his] inability (or refusal) to exercise his independent judgment and conform his behavior to the law,” Lamberth said.
Though Chansley has no prior criminal history, his “blatant disregard” for the law on January 6 makes him a danger to the public and the weight of evidence against him, including photos and video footage of him inside the Capitol, “increases the risk he will flee,” Lamberth argued.
Court documents also cite Chansley’s drug use and “willingness to lie about that drug use” as further examples of his “willingness to openly break the law.”
According to legal documents, Chansley told pretrial services he used marijuana three times a week and used no other drugs. Yet, Chansley reportedly said he used psychoactive substances and mushrooms as part of his “shamanistic practice” on his podcast.
Lamberth also rejected Chansley’s pretrial release motion claim that COVID-19 restrictions have made “meaningful, unmonitored” consultation with his lawyer “impossible.”
The judge said the issue is not that Watkins is unable to meet with his client, but that when he does, he “squanders” the time focusing on media and interview preparation.
“Such media appearances are undoubtedly conducive to defense counsel’s fame,” Lamberth wrote. “But they are not at all conducive to an argument that the only way defense counsel could privately communicate with his client is if defendant were temporarily released.”
“Do you ever notice,” Carlson said. “How all the scary internet conspiracy theorists – the radical QAnon people – when you actually see them on camera or in jail cells, as a lot of them now are, are maybe kind of confused with the wrong ideas, but they’re all kind of gentle people now waving American flags? They like this country.”
Carlson’s words came just a day after Washington DC police were put on high alert due to intelligence reports that far-right groups were planning to breach the US Capitol building once again.
It was feared that QAnon believers could wreak havoc on March 4 – the day on which many thought former President Donald Trump would be reinstated.
The QAnon Shaman is a published author. You can buy his books on Amazon.
The QAnon Shaman has been known to “capture and release” insects rather than kill them.
And the QAnon Shaman reflected on his life choices when former President Donald Trump pardoned rapper Lil’ Wayne at the end of his presidency last month.
These bizarre anecdotes are found in new court documents filed by counsel for the QAnon Shaman – also known as Jacob Anthony Chansley – on Tuesday, in which his lawyer seeks a pretrial release for his now-infamous client.
Adorned with horns, a headdress, and face paint, Chansley quickly became one of the most recognizable rioters at the January 6 Capitol insurrection, photographed with his bullhorn and flagpole in various locations throughout the building that day.
He was arrested days later in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, and charged with two felonies and four misdemeanors related to his role in the deadly attack. While many of his fellow rioters have been granted pretrial release, Chansley has remained in federal facilities since his arrest on January 9, court records say.
COVID-19 restrictions have relegated Chansley to solitary confinement for the entirety of his detainment, according to his lawyer, Al Watkins.
Earlier this month, he made headlines yet again when his attorney announced Chansley had lost 20 pounds and hadn’t eaten in a week because his religious beliefs prohibited him from eating non-organic food, and organic food wasn’t being served in jail.
In a video court hearing, Chansley told a judge that his body suffers when he eats food that is not “made by God.”
But even with the accommodations, Chansley’s attorney said in the court documents filed Tuesday that his client has continued to suffer “significant” digestive tract issues for which medical counsel has been sought, though he noted that Chansley is appreciative of efforts being made to try and meet his dietary needs.
Chansley’s “longstanding status as a practicing shaman” also precludes him from receiving any vaccinations, including the COVID-19 shot, documents say, and the pandemic has made “meaningful, unmonitored” communication between Chansley and his counsel nearly “impossible.”
Watkins writes in the motion that these facts alone should make Chansley eligible for temporary release, though the attorney offered additional arguments, emphasizing Chansley’s cooperation during the initial investigation.
According to court documents, Chansley returned home to Phoenix following the riot on January 7 and was advised that the FBI wanted to talk to him. Watkins said Chansley was “immediately and fully forthcoming” and identified himself in pictures from the riot.
Chansley continued to speak “openly and honestly” and even allowed officials to inspect his car which, at the time, housed his horns, court records say.
“He did so possessed of the genuine belief he had done nothing wrong,” Watkins writes.
During Chansley’s detention hearing, officials reportedly argued he was dangerous, highlighting his use of the “spear” he was seen holding in photos from the insurrection.
The court documents spend a considerable amount of space detailing the government’s “mischaracterization” of the “flagpole” Chansley was holding as a “spear.” Counsel argues the flagpole Chansley carried was adorned with a “finial” – an ornament at the top – which “dates back to Native Americans, a fact consistent with the Shamanic faith of the Defendant.”
Later in the motion, Watkins argues that similar flagpoles exist in government buildings around the country which “gives rise to the inevitable conclusion that the Government must not be too concerned that a member of the public will use the flagpole…as a weapon, otherwise they would not employ same (sic) across the country in Federal Government Buildings.”
In the weeks since the insurrection, Chansley has been one of the most outspoken critics of former President Donald Trump, and the release motion is transparent in blaming Trump for inciting the mob.
“But for the actions and the words of the president, [Chansley] would not have appeared in Washington, DC to support the president, and, but for the specific words of the then-president during his January 6 2021 speech, the Defendant would not have walked down Pennsylvania Avenue and would not have gone into the US Capitol building,” the motion reads.
Some additional findings in the 74-page pretrial release motion
Chansley asked then-President Trump for a presidential pardon multiple times but was ultimately not granted one. When the former president pardoned rapper Lil’ Wayne, “the Defendant was compelled to reconcile his prior faith in former President Trump with the actions and words of President Trump.”
Court records say Chansley’s counsel reached out to then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to obtain the pardon.
Chansley has published two books (his counsel includes the Amazon information pages of the two works as case evidence) and his lawyer described them as “one fiction and one being what might best be described as misguided musings.”
Chansley left a note for Vice President Mike Pence while in the Capitol building, writing “it’s only a matter of time justice is coming.” His counsel argues those words came directly from Trump and were in no way meant as a threat to Pence by Chansley.
In the interest of full disclosure, Chansley wanted it noted that he received a speeding ticket somewhere in the state of Oklahoma on his return trip from the riots but has thus far been unable to address it “by virtue of his incarceration.”
As Donald Trump’s impeachment team prepares to argue this week that the former president did not play a role in inciting the deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6, a growing group of his own supporters is claiming the exact opposite.
Lawyers for at least 10 people charged over their roles in the Capitol attack so far have blamed Trump directly for their clients’ involvement in the siege that left five dead.
This week, Trump faces his second impeachment trial as House impeachment managers try to make the case that he incited the insurrection by telling a crowd to “fight like hell” right before a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building last month.
Though it looks like Trump will have the votes he needs for an eventual acquittal, the result of the trial could have legal impacts beyond the former president’s political future. Criminal law experts told Insider’s Jacob Shamsian that the outcome of the trial could help Capitol rioters shift the blame to Trump in their own criminal cases.
Trump has already faced accusations of blame for his role in the riots. Family members of Rosanne Boyland, a 34-year-old woman from Kennesaw, Georgia, who was one of four civilians who died during the Capitol attack, have blamed Trump for her death.
“I’ve never tried to be a political person, but it’s my own personal belief that the president’s words incited a riot that killed four of his biggest fans last night…,” Justin Cave, Boyland’s brother-in-law, told local Atlanta media.
Now, some of those charged in the riots have started to use Trump’s incitement as a defense for their own actions on January 6.
Here are the alleged rioters so far who are blaming Trump:
An attorney for Matthew Miller, said the 22-year-old accused of discharging a fire extinguisher at Capitol Police, was “merely following the directions of then-President Donald Trump.”
“On January 6, 2021, Mr. Miller attended a rally in Washington, DC, where many speakers, including the then-President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, exhorted attendees to march to the Capitol to protest the certification of the vote count of the Electoral College for the 2020 Presidential Election,” Miller’s attorney wrote in a pre-trial release motion.
“QAnon Shaman” Jacob Angeli Chansley
Once one of the former president’s most loyal supporters, Jacob Chansely has apparently changed his tune.
His lawyer, Al Watkins, has said the “QAnon Shaman,” as Chansley became known, feels betrayed by the former president.
Watkins said his client acted on “months of lies and misrepresentations and horrific innuendo and hyperbolic speech by our president designed to inflame, enrage, motivate.”
“Our president, as a matter of public record, invited these individuals, as president, to walk down to the Capitol with him,” Watkins told a local NBC News affiliate, adding that Chansley “regrets very very much having not just been duped by the president, but … allowed that duping to put him in a position to make decisions he should not have made.
Sanford’s lawyer, Enrique Latoison, told The New York Times that his client would not have been at the Capitol at all if not for Trump’s words.
“You’re being told, ‘You gotta fight like hell,'” Latoison told the newspaper. “Does ‘fight like hell’ mean you can throw stuff at people? Maybe.”
Court filings say Emmanuel Jackson is a “recently homeless” man who voluntarily turned himself in to the FBI and identified himself in pictures and videos from the riots. Jackson allegedly struck a police shield with a metal baseball bat during the siege.
In a pre-trial release request, Jackson’s lawyer, Brandi Harden, argued that Trump “encouraged the crowd to walk down Pennsylvania Ave,” and “roused the crowd by telling them ‘we will stop the seal’ and ‘you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong…… if you don’t fight like hell you are not going to have a country anymore.'”
Harden wrote, “the nature and circumstances of this offense must be viewed through the lens of an event inspired by the President of the United States.”
An alleged member of the right-wing extremist group the Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola is accused of using a Capitol Police shield to shatter a window in the Capitol, allowing rioters to enter the building, according to the Department of Justice.
Pezzola’s defense lawyer, Michael Scibetta, told Reuters that Trump encouraged the mob.
“The boss of the country said, ‘People of the country, come on down, let people know what you think,'” Scibetta, told the outlet. “The logical thinking was, ‘He invited us down.'”
Edward Lang was arrested last month after he posted numerous incriminating videos and photos on social media documenting his time in the Capitol building, according to charging documents.
“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said in January. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”
The FBI received three separate tips regarding the same image of Kenneth Grayson, a 51-year-old Pennsylvania man, inside the Capitol on January 6, court documents say.
Charging records reveal Grayson sent multiple private messages before the siege discussing his travel plans and saying he would follow the president’s orders.
“I’m there for the greatest celebration of all time after Pence leads the Senate flip!! OR IM THERE IF TRUMP TELLS US TO STORM THE F***** CAPITAL IMA DO THAT THEN! We don’t want any trouble but they are not going to steal this election that I guarantee bro!!” Grayson wrote.
A lawyer for Garret Miller, an alleged capitol rioter charged for his role in the siege who also reportedly tweeted death threats to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a Capitol Police Officer, said his client “certainly regrets what he did.”
“He did it in support of former President (Donald) Trump, but regrets his actions,” Attorney Clint Broden told CNN.