Qanon Shaman pleads guilty to one felony count

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

From the beginning of the Capitol Hill riot, it seemed as if Jacob Chansley (a.k.a. the “Qanon Shaman”) had been seeking attention. Of all the people who breached the building, Chansley was the one who drew the attention of all the cameras, decked out in body paint and some sort of Viking helmet. He posed for pictures and shouted through a bullhorn. But this week he received the sort of attention he was probably hoping to avoid. Appearing in court in Phoenix, Chansley ended up pleading guilty to one count of Obstructing an Official Proceeding. Sentencing is scheduled for November 17 and the judge in the case is considering a request from his attorney to allow him to be released from custody until that date. (Associated Press)

An Arizona man who sported face paint, no shirt and a furry hat with horns when he joined the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 pleaded guilty Friday to a felony charge and wants to be released from jail while he awaits sentencing.

Jacob Chansley, who was widely photographed in the Senate chamber with a flagpole topped with a spear, could face 41 to 51 months in prison under sentencing guidelines, a prosecutor said. The man who called himself “QAnon Shaman” has been jailed for nearly eight months since his arrest.

Before entering the plea, Chansley was found by a judge to be mentally competent after having been transferred to a Colorado facility for a mental health evaluation.

When the Shaman’s attorney initially asked for a mental evaluation, I’d assumed that they were considering going with some sort of insanity defense, but apparently not. The colorful costume he wore during the riot, along with his penchant for posing for selfies with everyone certainly sounded like he might be able to make the argument that he was crazy, but it turns out that his attorney was simply claiming that the amount of time he had spent in solitary confinement was impacting his mental health.

As far as the sentence Chansley can expect goes, he will be eligible for as much as 41 to 51 months in prison, but that would be on the extreme end of the scale. Since he entered a guilty plea, it’s possible that his attorney has worked out some sort of deal with the prosecutors. After all, when Paul Allard Hodgkins pleaded guilty to the exact same charge in July he only received eight months.

But Hodgkins was a much less flamboyant figure. There are photos of him in the chamber during the riot, but he was wearing a blue Trump sweater and carrying a flag. It’s not hard to get the impression that the court is looking to make an example out of Chansley, being the person who seemed to come to personify the riot in the media. Also, he compounded his actions by leaving a note in the chamber for Mike Pence that sounded as if he was making a death threat against him.

If Chansley winds up taking the better part of four years in prison for this when so many others have been allowed to plead to misdemeanors, receiving nothing more than time served, he’ll probably have grounds to appeal. But he’s been held in custody ever since his arrest, so he already has nearly eight months behind bars. Assuming the judge refuses his request to be freed pending sentencing, he could have more than ten months on the books at that time. If he were to receive the same sentence as Hodgkins, he could be out immediately based on time served. But I’ll be very surprised if that’s the case. As I mentioned above, I can’t escape the feeling that the government is looking to make an example of the Shaman and if he’s allowed to basically walk free after sentencing there will be howls of protest.