Jacob Chansley sentenced to 41 months in Jan. 6 insurrection Jacob Chansley, who had pleaded guilty to obstruction, apologized and called his high-profile actions on Jan. 6 "indefensible."


Self-styled 'QAnon shaman' is sentenced to 41 months in Capitol riot

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It's one of the most memorable images of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol - a shirtless man carrying a spear, wearing an animal fur headdress and standing in the well of the U.S. Senate. Well, today in federal court, that man, Jacob Chansley, was sentenced to nearly three and a half years for his role in the Capitol riot.

NPR's justice correspondent Ryan Lucas joins us now with more. Hi, Ryan.


CHANG: All right. So we're going to get to the sentencing in a bit, but can you just first remind us all who Chansley is, and what exactly was his role on Jan. 6?

LUCAS: So Chansley is in his early 30s. He's from Arizona, and he's a self-described QAnon shaman. He became, in many ways, the face of the Capitol riot because of those images that you mentioned at the top. Now, on Jan. 6, Chansley was among the first 30 rioters to enter the Capitol. He made his way to the floor of the Senate and onto the dais where he - where, around an hour earlier or so, the vice president, Mike Pence, had been. Chansley left a note on the desk that read, it's only a matter of time. Justice is coming. And then he led rioters in a prayer of sorts, belting it out on his bullhorn. And he concluded that prayer with the words, quote, "thank you for allowing us to get rid of the communists, the globalists and the traitors within our government," end quote. Chansley was arrested just a few days after the Capitol riot. He eventually pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing an official proceeding.

CHANG: OK. He did plead guilty to one count. Now, I understand that Chansley was in court today and addressed the judge. What did he have to say?

LUCAS: Well, Chansley had a lot to say today. He spoke for a little more than 30 minutes, which is by far the longest I've heard a defendant speak at a sentencing hearing. He's been locked up since his arrest in January. And he said that he spent a lot of that time reflecting, particularly on his role on Jan. 6. He told the court that it was wrong to enter the Capitol that day. He said it was inexcusable. It was indefensible. But he did take issue with how he's been perceived publicly. He said that he's struggled with mental health issues for years but that he's better on that front now. And he said he's not a dangerous man. He said he's not violent or an insurrectionist or a domestic terrorist. He's a good man, he said, who broke the law and is trying to take responsibility for his actions. And he asked the court for leniency.

CHANG: OK, so some remorse there. How did that go over with the court?

LUCAS: Well, Judge Royce Lamberth said that he believes Chansley's remorse is genuine, that it's heartfelt, and he said that he thinks Chansley a better person today than he was on Jan. 6. But Lamberth said what Chansley did that day was terrible. He said sure, Chansley, he didn't hit anybody. He didn't fight with police. He wasn't violent, but he did obstruct the functioning of the United States government. And that, the judge said, was a serious crime. And so ultimately, he gave Chansley a sentence of 41 months, so just under three and a half years. But Chansley will get credit for the time that he's already served. This sentence, by the way, is less than the 51 months that the Justice Department had asked for for Chansley.

CHANG: Oh, interesting. Well, this just under three and a half years sentence, how does that compare with other sentences that you've seen so far in these Jan. 6 cases?

LUCAS: Well, most of the cases that have gone to sentencing so far have been for misdemeanors, and sentences in those cases have ranged from probation to several months in prison. Chansley pleaded guilty to a felony, though, and there have been only a couple of other felony cases to go to sentencing so far, including a Florida man who got eight months for obstruction, so the same charge as Chansley. Another was just last week. In that case, the defendant got 41 months as well for obstruction and assaulting an officer, so in the same ballpark.

But look; the FBI's investigation is still very much active. Around 650 people have been charged so far in the Capitol riot. About 130 have pleaded guilty. Less than 40 have been sentenced thus far, so there's still very much a lot of work to be done in this investigation.

CHANG: Right. That is NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Thank you, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you.

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