Jacob Angeli Chansley, also known as the “QAnon Shaman” wears a feather headdress and face paint at Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix on June 1. Chansley said that the federal government still has his signature furry hat with horns that he wore during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. and he said he can’t find another hat like it of equal quality. Photo by Caitlin Sievers | Arizona Mirror
Jacob Angeli Chansley, who rose to prominence as the self-described “QAnon Shaman” and became, for many, the face of the Jan. 6 insurrection, is trying to get his sentence overturned and says he never renounced QAnon or felt duped by Donald Trump.
At the same time, he’s trying to make money on his newfound fame.
Chansley, 35, is out of prison and back in his home state of Arizona. He’s living in north Phoenix, and is attempting to rebrand himself as “America’s Shaman.” He’s making podcasts rife with conspiracy theories, selling shaman-branded merchandise and is pitching hour-long coaching sessions for $500 a pop in the wide ranging subjects of spirituality, politics, the environment, astrology, history, philosophy and sociology. As of June 19, Chansley told the Mirror he had booked several sessions.
Chansley in September 2021 pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstructing an official proceeding after he entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. He entered so bare-chested, with his face painted and wearing his signature furry horn hat, wielding a pole tipped with a spear and leaving a message on Vice President Mike Pence’s desk that read “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”
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Chansley was sentenced to 41 months in prison. He was released to a halfway house March 29, then put on house arrest around a week later, he told the Arizona Mirror during a June 1 interview, until being released on three years’ probation May 25.
Leading up to Chansley’s plea and sentencing, his lawyer at the time, Al Watkins, said publicly that Chansley felt duped by former President Donald Trump and that he renounced QAnon. But Chansley told the Mirror that neither of those things were true.
Watkins did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“I’m not a big fan of (Watkins), my previous lawyer, after I found out all the things he was saying in the media without my consent,” Chansley said. “He said that I felt duped by Trump. I never said that. I never asked him to say that. He said that I denounced Q and the QAnon community. I never said that. I never asked him to say that.”
Chansley said that his current lawyer has also advised him not to speak too much about Watkins, but he told the Mirror he has some suspicions — which he wouldn’t share — about why Watkins said those things on his behalf.
Chansley’s friend and podcast co-host, who would only identify himself as “Chadwick,” said he believes Watkins was trying to get on the good side of “the left” and to be invited on CNN as a guest to talk about Chansley’s case.
Chansley and his current lawyer, William Shipley, are asking that his sentence for his part in the Jan. 6 insurrection be set aside after new U.S. Capitol security video footage was released to then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson. They claim the footage, which federal prosecutors say was cherry-picked and omits key portions, proves Capitol Police did not block Chansley’s path or attempt to take him into custody for 38 minutes before he entered the U.S. Senate chamber.
Shipley, a Hawaii criminal defense attorney who has represented other Jan. 6 defendants, argued in court filings that the government should have provided the video to Chansley and his lawyer prior to his guilty plea and sentencing. Shipley also argued that Watkins was ineffective in doing his job, alleging that he knew the government hadn’t provided all the video evidence available when Chansley signed his plea agreement.
At the time of his sentencing, Chansley told the court he was truly repentant and accepted responsibility for his actions. But now, Chansley won’t talk about whether he believes his sentence was justified, citing advice from Shipley not to.
Mike Rothschild, an author, journalist and conspiracy theory expert, told the Mirror that he believes Chansley’s backing away from taking responsibility for his actions on Jan. 6 sends a message to his fans and followers.
“I think it shows to this community that, if you say the right things, you can get away with stuff,” Rothschild said. “If you act contrite in the moment, you’ll get a lesser sentence and the media will do a lot of profiles on you, and then you come out and go immediately right back to hawking t-shirts and talking about the Great Awakening.”
According to the Capitol Police and the plea agreement that Chansley signed, he ignored multiple requests from officers to leave the building on Jan. 6 and shouted obscenities in the Senate gallery. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger pointed out in a previous statement that his force was vastly outnumbered by protestors that day — some of whom were violent — and was initially focused on de-escalating the situation.
And prosecutors countered Chansley’s claims in a June 6 filing, saying he waived his right to challenge his conviction when he signed a plea deal. They also noted that Carlson only showed about four minutes of Chansley’s approximately one hour inside the U.S. Capitol. Among the things the right-wing television host didn’t show his audience were Chansley breaching a police line outside the building as part of the crowd, or facing off with members of the Capitol Police for more than 30 minutes outside the Senate chamber.
“Chansley’s claims are not just belied by the record — they are completely at odds with the remorse he professed at the time of his sentencing: supposed remorse that he and his then- counsel used to great success in seeking a lower sentence,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves wrote in the filing.
The prosecutors also claim that they made all video evidence shown on the “Tucker Carlson Show” available to Jan. 6 defendants and their attorneys in the fall of 2021.
Chadwick, however, told the Mirror he does not believe Chansley’s punishment was warranted. Chadwick, who met Chansley during protests at the Arizona Capitol grounds around five years ago, hosts a podcast called “The Liberty Report” which has featured guests like election deniers Mike Lindell, and works with Chansley on his “Forbidden Truth” podcast.
Chadwick said he and Chansley traveled together to Washington, D.C., for Jan. 6, but got separated before Chansley entered the Capitol.
“I commend how he handled the situation, but I don’t think he deserved any of that,” Chadwick said. In his view, because the Capitol is a public building, and Chansley didn’t do any harm or cause damage, prison time wasn’t justified.
“We have the right to peacefully assemble,” Chadwick said. “That’s not right.”
When asked if it made a difference that people died in the riot and the immediate aftermath, Chadwick said it was a tragedy that a police officer shot and killed Ashli Babbitt as she tried to break into the Speaker’s Lobby of the Capitol. He did not mention the four other people who lost their lives that day until he was asked about them.
“Anyone who was violent on that day, that’s no good anywhere,” Chadwick said. “I think any type of assembly, it should always be peaceful.”
He claimed, citing a popular conspiracy theory, that most of those at the Capitol that day were peaceful and that only small “pockets of violence” were staged by leftist provocateurs dressed up as Trump supporters. The broad investigation of the events of Jan. 6, 2021 has found there is no basis to that idea.
Prior to being sentenced, Chansley was sent to Colorado for a psychological evaluation and determined to be mentally competent, but was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, people with schizotypal personality disorder often feel intense discomfort with close relationships and social interactions and have “distorted views of reality, superstitions and unusual behaviors.”
“By that rationale, there’s all types of people in this country that have schizotypal personality disorder,” Chansley said. “I think that being well adjusted in an extremely sick society is no measure of good health.”
He said he believes his diagnosis is at least in part because of his “shamanic beliefs,” including that he’s a medium between the spiritual and physical world.
Chansley said he did not receive mental health treatment while in prison, but that he’s required to receive a mental health evaluation to determine if he needs counseling as a stipulation of his probation. The evaluation is set to happen in August.
“Fact of the matter is I don’t have mental health issues,” Chansely said in a text. “Anyone who converses with me can tell that my mental health is sound.”
Chansley said he still believes some QAnon conspiracy theories (he did not describe them as such), including a version of the main QAnon theory that intelligence agencies use evidence of pedophilia to blackmail billionaires, CEOs and entertainers to maintain control of the world.
“It’s so they will be subservient to a global new world order and one world government,” Chansley said.
But he doesn’t buy into others popular in segments of the QAnon movement, like the claim that John F. Kennedy Jr., who died in a 1999 plane crash, is still alive and plans to be Donald Trump’s running mate in the 2024 presidential election, or that the Earth is flat.
“Give me a break,” Chansley said, of the flat Earth theory.
Chansley is also still a Trump fan, though he said he doesn’t agree with what he called “Trump worship.”
“Trump is a man,” Chansley said. “He’s a fallible man. I don’t agree with everything he does.”
Now that he’s out of prison, Chansley is focused on spreading his beliefs through his website, Twitter, podcasts and coaching sessions and continuing the practice of his own version of shamanism. The beliefs, which seem to be his own creation, are loosely based on various faith traditions around the world, including some rooted in Native American traditions.
“I’m not what some people would call a grifter,” he said. “I’m not trying to make money here. I’m trying to get a message out. It’s never been about me. The message is unity. The message is love, truth, forgiveness, freedom.”
When asked if he embodied those ideals on Jan. 6, 2021, Chansley deflected.
“The media ensured that my image was the antithesis of those things when the truth is just the opposite,” he said. “The media used my image to create a straw man as a means of creating a divisive propaganda campaign to further their political, social and psychological agenda. It is my intention to be an agent of unity, love, peace and forgiveness and truth as a means to save the planet and humanity from extinction.”
But Rothschild, who authored a book about the rise of QAnon, does not believe that Chansley is being entirely honest about his motives.
“I think, despite Jacob’s protestations that it’s not about the money, it’s definitely about the money,” Rothschild said. “There is a well-established industry for people who do this. And it’s very easy if you’re a well known figure in that world to kind of slide right into that, and it beats working.”
Chansley clearly seems to be trying to capitalize on his notoriety, selling coffee cups and shirts emblazoned with his mugshot, in addition to framed prints of it, on his website.
And he’s selling those one-on-one coaching sessions for $500 an hour.
Rothschild said he thinks Chansley serves as a role model for some in the QAnon community and that he might have a real future as a celebrity for the conservative fringe.
“It’s sad to watch somebody go down that path and to take other people down that path,” Rothschild said. “And I think prison could have been an opportunity for him to reexamine his life and what he’s capable of and use his genuine ability to get attention to help people, and maybe that was never realistic. But it sounds like what a lot of people are hoping for. And now, clearly, that’s never going to happen.”
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