Sympathy For The “QAnon Shaman?”

Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon Shaman” (center).

One of the more recognizable figures among the 550+ suspects arrested for alleged crimes committed during the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol attempt to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election is the man who’s become known as the “QAnon Shaman” for his bizarre buffalo headdress costume and Mel Gibson-style cries of “freeeeedooooom” that echoed through the halls of the Capitol that day. Two weeks ago, Jacob Chansley was transferred to the FCI Englewood federal prison in Denver’s southwest suburbs for a psychological evaluation in order to determine his fitness for trial after months of pre-trial detention since his arrest in January.

As Reuters reports today, the “Qanon Shaman” is a deeply disturbed individual:

The participant in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots nicknamed the “QAnon Shaman” is negotiating a possible plea deal with prosecutors, after prison psychologists found he suffers from a variety of mental illnesses, his attorney said.

In an interview, defense lawyer Albert Watkins said that officials at the federal Bureau of Prisons, or BOP, have diagnosed his client Jacob Chansley with transient schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety.

The BOP’s findings, which have not yet been made public, suggest Chansley’s mental condition deteriorated due to the stress of being held in solitary confinement at a jail in Alexandria, Virginia, Watkins said.

“As he spent more time in solitary confinement … the decline in his acuity was noticeable, even to an untrained eye,” Watkins said in an interview on Thursday.

First and foremost: confirmation that this individual suspect in an insurrection thousands of people participated in urged on by then-President Donald Trump is seriously mentally ill does not excuse the actions of anyone else. The thorough and unsparing investigation to hold everyone who broke the law on January 6th accountable reflects the seriousness of the crimes committed that day, and is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans.

The presence of a person suffering from severe mental illness in this crowd of agitated criminal extremists cannot be considered unexpected. Furthermore, the psychological harm done by solitary confinement is very well known here in Colorado, where corrections officials in recent years have eliminated long-term solitary confinement entirely.

Even in a case of insurrection, what makes America great is how we treat even the least deserving of sympathy fairly. The “QAnon Shaman” should be punished, and it does appear that he has been. What he may need more at the end of the day, though, is treatment.

“QAnon Shaman” himself may go down in history as more of a sad mascot than a bonafide threat, but that doesn’t mean we should get complacent about the very real and enduring threat of more violence from Trump dead-enders. It’s the sound of mind who smashed their way into the Capitol, and the man who incited them to violence in the first place, who should not walk free.

23 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. unnamed says:

    You might have to talk to Mick and Keef about that.

  2. MattC says:

    If his mental health is such that he cannot stand trial, I question his ability to own a firearm, vote, drive a car, or otherwise do anything that generally requires some level of mental health.


    • RepealAndReplace says:

      "If his mental health is such that he cannot stand trial, I question his ability to own a firearm"

      You would think, and common sense would tell you so, but I can easily see Negev or one of the Nevilles putting forth the argument that there is nothing in the Second Amendment which conditions the right to bear arms on good mental health.

      • Dano says:

        And they would be wrong.

        The 2nd Amendment prefaces the right to bear arms on the maintenance of "well-regulated militia". Mental health considerations would definitely fall under "well-regulated".

        • ParkHill says:

          You forgot about that nasty comma!

          I would agree with you, but apparently, the comma means the well-regulated militia actually has nothing to do with the right to bear arms.

          To the gun-nuts and the Supreme Court conservatives, "well-regulated" justifies the right to bear arms, it doesn't qualify the right to bear arms.

  3. JohnInDenver says:

    If I recall my debaters' research into criminal justice reforms, mental illness would make a difference if

     * at the time of the alleged violation, Jacob Chansley did not know right from wrong.

     * at the time of trial, if he cannot assist in order to have his counsel present an adequate defense, and

     * after conviction, to determine conditions and treatment during confinement or supervision.

    • spaceman2021 says:

      It sounds like his mental health concerns are sufficient enough for a competency evaluation.  And his lawyers have an ethical obligation to request one.  If he's currently not competent to stand trial, he can't enter into a plea agreement either because he's not competent to knowingly and voluntarily waive his constitutional rights as required in any plea agreement. 


  4. Genghis says:

    Some variation on a diminished capacity defense was inevitable in at least some of these cases. But hey, this is at least a touch more sophisticated than Mr. Watkins' comments about his client from a couple of months ago:

    A lot of these defendants — and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully — but they’re all fucking short-bus people. These are people with brain damage, they’re fucking retarded, they’re on the goddamn spectrum.

    But they’re our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our coworkers — they’re part of our country. These aren’t bad people, they don’t have prior criminal history. Fuck, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since fucking Hitler.

    "Transient schizophrenia with bipolar disorder" will likely serve Q-boy's interests more efficiently than "short-bus aspie dipshit who's too stupid and bereft of self-control to resist the siren song of trumpanzee pant-hooting."

  5. Diogenesdemar says:

    Well, I guess Ttump gets a pass too, then? . . .

    (. . . although, in his diminished capacity he probably already gave himself one . . .)

  6. ParkHill says:

    Stochastic Terrorism. Welcome to the Republican Party.

  7. notaskinnycook says:

    I expect a lot of these people, upon examination, will be found to be missing a few lights. Yammie-pie sings a siren song that brings out the worst in people who can be described as, at best, a bit unstable.

  8. Voyageur says:

    Crazy or not, he should still serve some time for felony bad fashion sense.

  9. 2Jung2Die says:

    Get him treatment, sure, but I'm ambivalent about sympathy. I'd normally be flat-out opposed, but in Sympathy For The Devil the lyrical consequence for not having sympathy is "I'll lay your soul to waste." How I wish that wasn't also a realistic modern-day possibility, maybe not from the Shaman directly but from some of the crowd he ran with.

  10. davebarnes says:

    "…the psychological harm done by solitary confinement is very well known here in Colorado, where corrections officials in recent years have eliminated long-term solitary confinement entirely."

    Isn't Supermax in Colorado?

    • JohnInDenver says:

      Supermax is one of the legally bizarre locations — physically in Colorado, but NOT legally subject to Colorado's policies.


    • spaceman2021 says:

      Supermax is BOP not CO DOC, so it's completely federal, and completely vile

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        “It’s a dirty job, but . . .” seems appropriate and not at all cliche in this case.  

        Not that very long ago most of the inmates now imprisoned there would have all been executed, or awaiting execution somewhere, as their only possibility.

        Unfortunately, there are a few places in an imperfect and sometimes ugly world that are not, and can not be, about rehabilitation.

  11. kwtree says:

    Sympathy and compassion are what Qbies make fun of us for having.

    see: “liberal tears”, “bleeding  heart librulz”, etc.

    Chansley should get appropriate treatment, but no better than any other prisoner, most of whom Chansley’s fellow Trumpers would have absolute contempt for. Zero librul tears or compassion from me. 



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