Rioters aimed to “capture and assassinate” lawmakers, “QAnon Shaman” prosecutors say

Federal prosecutors in Arizona are asking a judge to detain the Capitol rioter known as the “QAnon Shaman” before trial, saying his words and actions during the Jan. 6 siege show that the intent of the rioters was to “capture and assassinate” lawmakers.

Jacob Chansley, 33, of Arizona was indicted Jan. 11 by a federal grand jury on two felony charges of interfering with law enforcement during the commission of civil disorder and obstructing a Congressional proceeding, threatening Congressional officials and disorderly conduct. Chansley, who is also known as Jake Angeli, was also indicted on four misdemeanor counts. 

Prosecutors say Chansley, a well-known fixture at Arizona pro-Trump rallies, is a “self-proclaimed leader” in the QAnon conspiracy theory movement. Images of a shirtless Chansley storming the Capitol wearing horns, a fur coyote tail headdress and face paint, carrying a bullhorn and a spear, quickly went viral on social media. He is being held in a federal detention facility in Arizona.

In a detention memorandum filed Thursday, U.S. prosecutors in Arizona argue Chansley would pose an “ongoing danger to the community” and a flight risk were he to be released. While inside the Capitol, prosecutors argue, Chansley approached U.S. Capitol police officer Keith Robishaw and screamed that “this was their house, that they were there to get Senators, and that they were there to take the Capitol, to get Congressional leaders,” the memorandum reads. “Chansley also used his bullhorn to communicate that they were there to take out several United States congressmen,” the filing says.

The memorandum also says “while officer Robishaw was attempting to quell the crowd, Chansley was using his bullhorn to incite it.”

Prosecutor say Chansley then entered the Senate chamber with a group of about 25 rioters, posed for pictures at the dais where Vice President Mike Pence had been minutes before, and left a note that read, “It’s only a matter of time. Justice is coming.” 

The following day, prosecutors say Chansley called the FBI Washington field office, admitted his involvement and described Pence as a “child-trafficking traitor,” but said he did not intend the note to be a threat. When asked about the meaning of the note, he launched into a “lengthy diatribe” describing current and past lawmakers including Pence, former president Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President-elect Joe Biden as “infiltrators involved in various types of wrongdoing.”

“Although he stated his note was not a threat, the government strongly disagrees,” the prosecution’s court filing reads.

Chansley was arrested Jan. 9, when unaware of a sealed warrant out for his arrest, prosecutors say he drove to an FBI office in Phoenix intending to “continue his interview.” He brought with him the headdress, spear, horns, face paint and bullhorn in the trunk of his car, according to the memo. 

Prosecutors describe Chansley as a “follower-turned-leader” in the QAnon ideology who has espoused dangerous conspiracy theories and described “hanging” lawmakers he called “traitors” in social media posts. 

“He has repeatedly demonstrated dramatic, erratic behavior, an inability to conform to societal norms, and an unwillingness to appreciate the consequences of his actions,” the filing read. “He abides by his own belief system, acts accordingly regardless of the criminal consequences, and brings others along with him.”

They say Chansley also vowed to return to Washington, D.C. for President-elect Biden’s inauguration.

“At this juncture in our Nation’s history, it is hard to imagine a greater risk to our democracy and community than the armed revolution of which Chansley has made himself the symbol,” prosecutors wrote. 

Chansley’s lawyer Albert Watkins, however, painted a starkly different picture in a statement Thursday. Watkins said Chansley was unarmed, non-violent, and surrendered peacefully to the FBI. The lawyer said Chansley and others who entered the Capitol did so at the instruction of President Donald Trump, and called on Mr. Trump to pardon Chansley and other “like-minded, peaceful individuals who accepted the president’s invitation with honorable intention.”

“Mr. Chansley is an American; he served honorably in the U.S. military,” Watkins’ statement said. “He has zero criminal history. He is a lover of nature, routinely practices meditation, is an active practicer of yoga and eats only organic food. He took seriously the countless messages of President Trump. He believed in President Trump. Like tens of millions of other Americans, Chansley felt — for the first time in his life — as though his voice was being heard.”

Chansley is scheduled for a detention hearing before a federal judge on Friday.

So far, more than 200 people are the subject of investigations and more than 100 are facing local or federal charges in the Jan. 6 riot that left five people dead. Hundreds more charges are expected as federal investigators comb tips, video and social media to identify and arrest suspects across the country. 

Those already charged face a variety of counts ranging from curfew violations, unlawful entry and disorderly conduct to theft, assault and weapons violations. A team of senior federal prosecutors are investigating more serious charges including sedition and conspiracy related to the “most heinous” acts at the Capitol, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said Tuesday.  

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