Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Samuel Corum | Getty Images
A self-described QAnon shaman was ordered held without bail Friday by a judge after prosecutors presented evidence he stormed into the Senate and left a menancing note for Vice President Mike Pence during a riot by pro-Trump supporters.
Jacob Chansley, the horn-wearing, spear-wielding, face-paint-wearing conspiracy theorist drew widespread attention Jan. 6 for his bizarre appearance among the mob that invaded the Capitol complex.
Before Friday’s detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, federal prosecutors in Arizona said there is “strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government.”
Those prosecutors dropped that claim at the bail hearing, after pushback from the top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., whose office lodged the two felonies and four misdemeanors that led to Chansley’s arrest.
Arizona federal prosecutors had also noted in that filing that “news reports suggest that the U.S. Capitol siege may just be the beginning of potentially violent actions from President [Donald] Trump’s supporters.”
The filing by the office of Arizona U.S. Attorney Michael Bailey asked a judge on Friday to detain Chansley, one of the most notorious rioters arrested so far, without bail.
They said he has planned to return to Washington for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.
“Chansley is a self-proclaimed leader of the QAnon,” a group of conspiracy theorists that believes many U.S. lawmakers are part of a ring of child molesters and Satan worshipers, filing said. There were other believers in QAnon among the rioters.
“Chansley is an active participant in — and has made himself the most prominent symbol of — a violent insurrection that attempted to overthrow the United States government,” prosecutors wrote. “No [bail] conditions can reasonably assure his appearance [in court] as required, nor ensure the safety of the community.”
But Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, during a press conference later Friday undercut the idea that there is evidence of assassination plots by the rioters.
“Right now, we don’t have direct evidence of kill-capture teams,” said Sherwin, whose office is the one that has lodged federal criminal charges against Chansley and other rioters.
Sherwin said “there may be a disconnect” between his office and those of federal prosecutors in Arizona and in Texas, who have made similar allegations.
Later Friday, at Chansley’s hearing in Phoenix, an assistant U.S. attorney asked judge to remove the sentence in the bail filing that claimed there was strong evidence of an intent to capture and killed elected officials.
While that statement “may very well be appropriate at a trial of Mr. Chansley and may very well characterize the evidence and his intent that day,” the prosecutor said that for the purpose of the bail hearing “we do not want to mislead the court by discussing the strength of any sort of specific evidence.”
The bail filing also said that Chansley, who was wearing face paint and a hat with horns on it, raced up to a dais in the Senate “where Vice President Pence had been presiding just minutes before, and began posing” to be photographed by other rioters.
Pence was presiding that day over a joint session of Congress to formally confirm the election of Biden as president.
A protester yells inside the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee | Getty Images News | Getty Images
“Chansley left a note on the Senate Chamber dais, where Vice President Mike Pence had been presiding over the session just minutes before, warning ‘it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.'”
Prosecutors said that when the FBI questioned Chansley about the meaning of his words, he “went on a lengthy diatribe describing current and past United States political leaders as infiltrators, specifically naming Vice President Mike Pence.”
“He said that he was able to get into the United States Senate in D.C. ‘by the grace of God.’ Chansley said that he was glad he sat in the Vice President’s chair because Vice President Pence is a child-trafficking traitor,” the filing said.
While Chansley, who is also known as Jacob Angeli, claimed that he did not mean the note as a threat, “the Government strongly disagrees,” the filing said.
A demonstrator holds a mannequin wearing a noose with “Traitor” written on it during a protest at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.
Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Prosecutors noted that, “Chansley also expressed his interest in returning to Washington D.C. for the inauguration, later telling the FBI: ‘I’ll still go, you better believe it.'”
“‘For sure I’d want to be there, as a protestor, as a protestor, f–‘ a,'” he said, according to the filing.
In an interview last week with the FBI, prosecutors wrote, he twice said “that he had plans after the January 9 FBI interview to drive to the Arizona State Capitol.”
“Corroborating his statement, Chansley had his horns, furry coyote tail headdress, face paint, tan pants, six-foot-long spear, and his bullhorn inside the 2003 Hyundai that he parked at the FBI,” the filing said.
The document said Chansley lied to federal pre-trial services investigators after his arrest when he said that he never used drugs other than marijuana, which he smokes three times weekly in the past.
“Chansley has described his routine use of psychedelic drugs, including mushrooms and peyote, in recorded interviews on his podcast,” the filing said. “Additionally, a full portrait of Chansley’s apparent mental health issues — which he has publicly-disseminated, and which include strongly-held false mystical beliefs and leadership in a dangerous extremist group, QAnon founded on an imaginary conspiracy theory—were not provided to the PTS officer, and thus not evaluated in the assessment.”
In an video interview outside the Capitol as he and other rioters left the complex, Chansley said that he left the Senate floor and “the cops just walked out with me.”
He also said the mob was leaving because Trump had posted a message online asking them to do so, and that rioters had “won” the day.
“We won by sending a message to the senators and the congressmen, we won by sending a message to Pence, that if they don’t … do as it is their oath is to do, that if they don’t uphold the Constitution, then we will remove you, but one way or the other,” Chansley said.
ProPublica reported that last month two women warned Capitol Police about Chansley, whom they had seen outside the building “strangely dressed” and “carrying a spear.”
“He was a figure they would come to recognize — Jacob Chansley, the QAnon follower in a Viking outfit who was photographed last week shouting from the dais of the Senate chamber,” ProPublica reported about the women, Melissa Byrne and Chibundu Nnake.
“They alerted the Capitol Police at the time, as the spear seemed to violate the complex’s weapons ban, but officers dismissed their concern, they said,” according to ProPublica.
“One officer told them that Chansley had been stopped earlier in the day, but that police ‘higher ups’ had decided not to do anything about him.”
“‘We don’t “perceive it as a weapon,”‘ Nnake recalled the officer saying of the spear,” the article said.
Byrne tweeted Friday, writing, “I am exceedingly livid that I reported this a—- to the USCP on 12/14 for carrying a weapon on Capitol Grounds and was told ‘higher ups’ okay’d him being there. I am seething. Imagine if he would have been arrested and investigated.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb, who has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics in his own party, said in a statement on Friday, “Rage-peddlers are going to try to whitewash the attack on the Capitol, saying that a few bad apples got out of control. That’s wrong … These men weren’t drunks who got rowdy — they were terrorists attacking this country’s constitutionally-mandated transfer of power. They failed, but they came dangerously close to starting a bloody constitutional crisis.”
Trump was impeached Tuesday by the House of Representatives for inciting the mob, which stormed the Capitol complex after a rally on the Ellipse, in which he urged supporters to help him undo Biden’s election.
Also Friday, The New York Times reported that the FBI is investigating 37 people in a probe of the killing during the riot of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.
The Times cited an FBI memo sent to the private sector and others.
Four other people died during the riot, including an Air Force veteran who subscribed to the QAnon theory who was shot while trying to climb through a broken window in the House of Representatives building.
Note: This article and its headline were updated after federal prosecutors dropped their previous claim that “strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government.”