Jan. 6 footage shows DOJ, court focused on Shaman’s costume, not crime
Fox’s Tucker Carson this week aired the highly anticipated release of previously unreleased footage from the January 6 riot.
The first tranche of videotapes raises serious concerns over previous claims made by committee members on Jan. 6.
But the most serious revelations, in my opinion, relate to the case of “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley.
I have previously expressed reservations about the severe sentence imposed on Chansley.
The new images raise more questions about the handling of the case by the Ministry of Justice and the court.
After the Republican Party boycotted the committee following the rejection of its proposed members, the committee could have pushed for a balanced investigation.
Instead, it hired a former ABC producer to put on a production for television, including tightly scripted statements and questions.
Witnesses were used as virtual props and the committee consistently blocked all alternative views and evidence.
Members repeatedly used the hearing to pitch for the midterm and 2024 elections.
Even the The New York Times admitted the story was intended to “revise the interim message” and “give [Democrats] a platform to make a broader case about why they deserve to stay in power.”
I supported the creation of the commission and was highly critical of President Donald Trump’s comments before the riot.
Indeed, I publicly condemned Trump’s speech when it was delivered, and I called for a bipartisan vote of disapproval over his responsibility in the riots.
I also found many of the testimonies of respected officials against the violence and election denial very disturbing.
The committee sacrificed its legitimacy by holding hearings that often resembled a show trial rather than an objective congressional inquiry. It could have been so much more.
But Chansley’s footage was deeply disturbing.
I supported the prosecution of those who rebelled on January 6. As I said immediately after the uprising, it was a violation of our constitutional process.
Still, many of us were surprised that Chansley received a 41-month prison sentence for “obstructing a federal proceeding.”
The penalty was higher than that for violent crimes. Indeed, an Antifa member who took an ax to a member’s office in Fargo, ND was later put on probation… and his ax back.
I also objected to the Justice Department’s draconian treatment of keeping figures like Chansley in solitary confinement for extended periods without clear justification.
We knew that Chansley was not involved in violence or property destruction. However, the footage showed Chansley walking through one of the doors with hundreds of others, only to be escorted through the Capitol by a few officers.
The officials appear to be assisting him in gaining access to internal areas.
He walks past a dozen armed officers who do not try to stop him. He even seems to thank the cops for their help.
It is not clear whether the defense had access to all of these videotapes. Either way, these tapes are in stark contrast to what was presented in court.
The Justice Department portrayed Chansley as a violent offender. Prosecutor Kimberly Paschall played videos to show Chansley screaming along with the crowd. “That’s not peaceful,” she insisted.
In his verdict, Judge Royce Lamberth noted, “He made himself the image of the riot, didn’t he? For good or bad, he made himself the image of this whole event.
I have a lot of respect for Lamberth, but the sentence was hard to justify, especially compared to other defendants.
Chansley, a Navy veteran, had no criminal record and pleaded guilty. His case became increasingly painful as his personality disorder and other emotional issues came to light. He stood before Lamberth and begged that there was “a lot of bad juju that I never wanted to create.”
But none of those mitigating factors seemed to count for much.
I agree with Lamberth that Chansley and others warrant longer-than-average sentences for this assault on our constitutional process. However, Chansley seems to have a unique “aggravating factor” in his conviction for “iconic costumes”.
An out-of-work actor, Chansley became an instant sensation by appearing in his animal headdress, horns, and red, white, and blue face paint.
Had he only worn a MAGA hat and chinos, he probably would have received a fraction of this penalty.
Chansley didn’t seem to be the leader of any group that day as he wandered around the Capitol. The only people with him were often two present and remarkably observant Capitol police officers.
On the Senate floor, he is described as “chanting an unintelligible mantra” before leaving.
Chansley confirms the old expression among defense attorneys: “One day on the cover of Time, next day doing time.” That’s an award that comes from being a famous shaman.
Again, Chansley and any rioters deserve jail time. What happened on January 6 was an embarrassment that left a lasting wound to this nation.
But making Chansley an example for being the most visible is dangerously detached from his underlying behavior.
I have no particular sympathy for Chansley, but I do worry about the system that has condemned him.
Ultimately, the judiciary must remain blind. In this case, that means focusing on the crime rather than the costume.