The lawyer representing Jan. 6 defendant Jacob Chansley, better known as the buffalo headdress-adorn QAnon Shaman, is calling for sanctions against the Justice Department prosecutors over the previously concealed security video footage that showed his client peacefully escorted by police through the Capitol.
After House Speaker Kevin McCarthy released videos last month, Chansley was placed into a halfway house, 14 months before the end of his prison sentence. Mr. Chansley’s lawyer, though, stressed that the transfer was part of the Bureau of Prisons protocol and not due to the video.
The movement of prisoners between facilities is routine, however Chansley’s release closely followed the debut of the footage.
Chansley’s lawyer, Albert S. Watkins, told The Washington Times that the federal prosecutors had a duty to turn over the video so lawyers could thoroughly defend their clients.
“The DOJ created and implemented a systemically flawed discovery production protocol for which there is simply no excuse,” he said. “The government had a duty to release material video footage, not just video footage that supported the government’s prosecutorial narrative.”
When prosecutors fail to disclose exculpatory evidence, Brady motions can be filed with the court. The term refers to the Supreme Court’s holding in Brady v. Maryland. The 1963 landmark case held that prosecutors must hand over evidence to the defense that helps prove their potential innocence.
SEE ALSO: QAnon Shaman released early from prison after the release of Jan. 6 security videos
“The Government failed to discharge this absolute duty, and for that significant sanctions are appropriate and necessary to send a strong message that courts have zero tolerance for this egregious injustice,” said Mr. Watkins.
Chansley, 35, was sentenced to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2021 to civil disorder and violent entry to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Chansley will later be released from the Phoenix, Arizona, halfway house on May 25, according to a spokesperson from the Bureau of Prisons.
“For safety, and security reasons, we do not discuss the conditions of confinement for any inmate, including transfers or release plans, nor do we specify an individual’s specific location while in community confinement,” the spokesperson added.
The sentence was cut short just weeks after Fox News host Tucker Carlson aired the video of police courteously leading Chansley around the Capitol. The video was provided to Fox News by Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, after the GOP won control of the chamber in the November elections. However, Mr. Watkins said the transfer of his client was not tied to the security footage.
Chansley with his bare chest, facepaint and headdress became the face of the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, when a pro-Trump mob of demonstrators stormed the Capitol to block the certification of President Biden’s win.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Republican, called Chansley’s release “amazing” — and she pointed to the security footage for clearing his name.
“I give a lot of credit to Speaker McCarthy for releasing those videos,” she told The Washington Times. “If he hadn’t released those tapes and Tucker Carleson hadn’t put it out, people wouldn’t have seen the truth and I think that played a big role.”
She said he should seek justice for being railroaded into prison.
“I hope he sues everyone that assassinated his character and lied about him,” Ms. Greene said.
Robert Sanders, a law professor at the University of New Haven, said Chansley has no ground to sue, and the newly released video clip shows him acting lawfully after he previously did not.
“The representation is disingenuous,” he said. “It lacks context.”
Like Ms. Greene, Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, also applauded the footage release — but he said all the security video collected by the Jan. 6 Committee should be made public.
“Whatever that so-called committee gathered ought to be released to everybody,” he said. “The more that is out there the better — all of it.”
Mr. Hawley said whether sanctions are appropriate against prosecutors handling the Jan. 6 cases depends on whether the DOJ lawyers knew of the exculpatory security video footage or not.
“I hope the answer is that everything the government had, the government turned over…but if what we learn is in fact no, defendants did not process this and the government did and they systematically withheld it, then it’s a big problem,” he said.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, Virginia Democrat, said the security video being released by Mr. McCarthy was a “breach of security.” She refused to comment on the criminal justice aspect of releasing the video.
“The security video being released by the Speaker is a total breach of security. As a former CIA officer, it just doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “You don’t give a detailed map of where cameras are and where visibility is out to the public.”
Mr. Watkins said he applaud the decision of the U.S. Bureau of Prison to grant Chansley early release.
“After serving eleven months in solitary before his sentence being imposed, and only 16 months of his sentence thereafter, it is appropriate this gentle and intelligent young man be permitted to move forward with the next stage of what undoubtedly will be a law-abiding and enriching life,” he said.
• Kerry Picket can be reached at email@example.com.
• Alex Swoyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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