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'QAnon Shaman' is sentenced to over 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

Jacob Chansley had pleaded guilty in September to a single count of felony obstruction of an official proceeding.

WASHINGTON — The Arizona man known as the “QAnon Shaman” will serve 41 months in prison after he stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. 

In handing down the sentence for the man, Jacob Chansley, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said: “What you did was horrific, obstructing the functioning of the government. What you did was terrible. You made yourself the epitome of the riot.”

Chansley, 34, stood out among the rioters on Jan. 6 by appearing shirtless with face paint, wearing a furry headdress with horns and carrying a U.S. flag and a bullhorn.  

Chansley spoke at length in court before his sentencing.  

“I admit to the world I was wrong. I have no excuses. My behavior was indefensible,” he said. 

But he was adamant that he is not a dangerous criminal, saying: “I am not a violent man or a white supremacist. I am truly repentant.” He said he suffers from a personality disorder and is on the autism spectrum.

Federal prosecutors had asked that Chansley, who pleaded guilty in September to a single count of felony obstruction of an official proceeding, serve 51 months, followed by three years of supervised release. They also asked that he pay $2,000 in restitution. 

Prosecutors described Chansley as the “public face of the Capitol riot” in a sentencing memo. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall said at the hearing that in the months leading up to the attack, Chansley “posted vitriolic messages on social media, encouraging his thousands of followers to expose corrupt politicians, to ID the traitors in the government, to halt their agenda, to stop the steal, and end the deep state.”

“That was a call to battle,” she said.

Defense lawyer Albert Watkins said Chansley’s bizarre appearance and behavior on Jan. 6 were indicators of mental health problems.

“He was not an organizer. He was not a planner. He was not violent. He was not destructive. He was not a thief," he said.

Chansley was among the initial throng to enter the building, and once he was there, he used a bullhorn "to rile up the crowd and demand that lawmakers be brought out,” according to the sentencing memo.

In the Senate gallery, Chansley shouted obscenities and scaled the chamber's dais, the memo continued. There, he photographed himself, refused to leave when officers ordered him to and left a note that read: "It's Only A Matter of Time. Justice Is Coming!"

Prosecutors added that Chansley, who promoted the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, used social media to spread "false information and hateful rhetoric" that inflamed the riot.

In an email last week, Watkins said prosecutors' recommendation was "willfully delusional" and "shameful." He described Chansley as a "young, gentle man with zero criminal history and long standing mental health vulnerabilities."

Watkins said after the sentencing that Chansley “is absolutely embracing being held accountable.” He said that former President Donald Trump is “no longer important to him” and that he is focused instead on his mental health. 

In January, Chansley asked Trump to pardon him, saying he accepted the president’s invitation to go to the Capitol. After Trump left office, Chansley announced his disappointment and volunteered to testify against him at the Senate impeachment trial.

In addition to the prison term, Lamberth ordered Chansley to pay $2,000 in restitution. He must also serve three years of supervised release after he completes his prison term.

Chansley is one of more than 650 people to have been charged in the Jan. 6 riot; 132 people have pleaded guilty, most of them to misdemeanors.

Pete Williams reported from Washington, Tim Stelloh reported from California and Marlene Lenthang reported from New York.