Jacob Chansley puffed out his chest, howled like an animal, and paraded his half-naked, horn-adorned body onto the Senate floor during the insurrection at the Capitol. For his obstruction to Congress’ efforts to certify the 2020 election, prosecutors have recommended a sentence of four years in prison.
In a memo issued late Tuesday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, prosecutors say Chansley, who also goes by the name Jake Angeli, effectively made himself the “public face of the Capitol riot” when he stormed into the complex wielding a six-foot-long spear-tipped flagpole, marauded through the chambers, and began hollering that then-Vice President Mike Pence was “a traitor.”
The 33-year-old was among some of the first people to breach the building on Jan. 6.
Chansley “[riled] up other members of the mob with his screaming obscenities about our nation’s lawmakers and flouting the ‘opportunity’ to rid our government of those he has long considered to be traitors,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves and assistant U.S. attorney Kimberly Paschall wrote in the 28-page sentencing memo.
The recommendation of 51 months from the Justice Department, or just over four years in prison, is the harshest one yet for defendants tied to the insurrection. The only other felony Capitol riot defendant that has been sentenced so far is Paul Hodgkins. The U.S. requested 18 months for Hodgkins, but he received an eight-month sentence instead.
Hodgkins, originally from Florida, breached the Capitol with a backpack, goggles, rope, and white latex gloves on hand, and proceeded to barrel through to the floor of the Senate while hoisting a “Trump 2020” flag over his shoulder.
Incidentally, during the assault, Hodgkins stood nearby as Chansley led a group invocation, where he prayed with fellow rioters.
“Thank you for allowing the United States of America to be reborn. Thank you for allowing us to get rid of the communists, the globalists, and the traitors within our government,” he said.
Notably, he also left an ominous note on the dais in the Senate during the attack reading, “It’s only a matter of time. Justice is coming!”
Chansley fancied himself the “QAnon Shaman” when he was an avowed zealot for the QAnon conspiracy. That belief system is one he now claims to have divorced himself from completely. His attorney, Albert Watkins released a statement on Chansley’s behalf in September to the Huffington Post saying that the “long avowed and practicing shaman has repudiated the ‘Q’ previously assigned to him.”
“The road leading up to the events of January 6 traversed years,” Watkins said in a statement this fall. “The path charted by Mr. Chansley since January 6 has been a process, one which has involved pain, depression, solitary confinement, introspection, recognition of mental health vulnerabilities, and a coming to grips with the need for more self-work.”
Watkins, in response to the recommended 51- month sentence, defended Chansley as someone suffering from “mental health vulnerabilities” as evidenced, at the very least, he argued, by the exposure of his half-nude body while the weather in Washington that morning was below 40 degrees.
“His Shamanic chants were further indicia of mental health vulnerabilities. So too was the rapid clip at which his widely published post-Capitol entry speech was uttered. So too were his gait and apparent Forrest Gump-like obliviousness too much of the activity and many of the actions of those surrounding him as he approached, entered, and traversed the Capitol,” Watkins said. “The events that led Mr. Chansley to do what he did on January 6, 2021, antedate his presence in the Capitol. He was not an organizer. He was not a planner. He was not violent. He was not destructive. He was not a thief.”
Watkins also emphasized that Chansley’s unaddressed schizophrenia should be considered by the court when rendering its final decision.
“Mr. Chansley is not a political prisoner. He does not seek to be labeled such. Rather, this case is about a frail and vulnerable human,” Watkins wrote.
Watkins did not offer a specific recommendation for sentencing, only urging that it be far less than the prosecutor’s suggestion. The Arizona native has so far spent 10 months in pre-trial detention.
Prosecutors, however, offered a far tougher position on Chansley.
“The need for the sentence to provide specific deterrence to this particular defendant also weighs heavily in favor of a lengthy term of incarceration. Although the defendant has now expressed remorse and contrition, his media statements immediately after January 6 were those of a man gloating over victory in battle,” U.S. attorneys wrote.
Chansley did not express remorse upon leaving the Capitol or when going home, they argued.
“It came when he realized he was in trouble. It came when he realized that large numbers of Americans and people worldwide were horrified at what happened that day. It came when he realized that he could go to jail for what he did,” the memo states.