Jacob Chansley, whose shirtless image on the Senate rostrum and menacing note to Vice President Mike Pence came to symbolize the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, has been sentenced to almost 3 1/2 years in prison, matching the harshest sentence handed down yet in the 10-month prosecution effort.
“What you did here was horrific,” Judge Royce Lamberth said as he issued the 41-month sentence adding that he believed Chansley — a self-described shaman and a follower of the QAnon conspiracy movement — had come to genuinely regret his actions.
Lamberth acknowledged that Chansley had not engaged in physical violence on Jan. 6, but said his role as a leader among those who went into the Senate chamber and disrupted the electoral vote tally compelled a serious prison sentence.
“What you did was terrible. You made yourself the epitome of the riot,” said the judge, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan. “You didn’t slug anybody, but what you did here was actually obstruct the functioning of the whole government. It’s a serious crime.”
Lamberth’s sentence followed a lengthy in-court appeal from Chansley himself, who said his 317 days in pretrial confinement had “changed” him as a person. He learned he suffered from a personality disorder and lamented that he had become synonymous with the horrors of the attack on the Capitol.
“That’s a lot of bad juju that I never meant to create,” Chansley said during a sometimes rambling, half-hour-long address to the court. “My shamanic attire is designed to ward off evil spirits, not to scare people.”
Nonbinding federal sentencing guidelines called for between 41 to 51 months in prison for Chansley on the obstruction of justice count he pleaded guilty to.
Prosecutors had urged Lamberth to sentence Chansley to the top end of that range, 51 months, rejecting claims that he was a “peaceful” participant in the Jan. 6 mob.
“If the defendant had been peaceful on that day, your honor, we would not be here,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall said.
Paschall said Chansley had spent months whipping up followers into a frenzy over false claims of voter fraud, describing his efforts as “a call to battle.” Then, she said, Chansley stormed past police and onto the Senate dais where Pence stood just moments before and wrote a note that read: “It’s only a matter of time. Justice is coming.”
“He’s feet away from the object of his contempt,” Paschall said. “This note was not peaceful. This note is a threat.”
Chansley’s attorney, Albert Watkins, indicated that Chansley had also been cooperating with the government since his incarceration. He has sat for multiple debriefings, Watkins noted, and is willing to offer further help.
And Chansley used his remarks to distinguish himself from the other Jan. 6 defendants who have been jailed alongside him in a Washington, D.C., facility, suggesting they’re more hardened than he is.
“I am nothing like these people that I have been incarcerated with,” he said, adding, “They’re acting like they’re in the Holiday Inn while they’re incarcerated.”