- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2023

The Jan. 6 defendant known as the QAnon Shaman, who wore a horned headdress during the riot at the U.S. Capitol, has been released from prison 14 months early as his attorney seeks sanctions against Justice Department prosecutors over previously concealed security video that could have aided his defense.

Prison officials said Thursday that Jacob Chansley, 35, has been moved to a halfway house in Phoenix. The move took place roughly three weeks after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy released videos showing Chansley being escorted around the Capitol peacefully by police on Jan. 6, 2021.

Chansley was sentenced to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2021 to civil disorder and violent entry to the Capitol. His attorney, Albert S. Watkins, said the early release was part of the Bureau of Prisons protocol. He did not cite the video for his client’s transfer.

“After serving 11 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,” Mr. Watkins said. “I applaud the decision of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in this regard.”

Chansley is set to be released from the Phoenix halfway house on May 25, said a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson.

“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 said.

The sentence was cut short after Fox News host Tucker Carlson aired the video of police courteously leading Chansley around the Capitol. Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, provided the video to Fox News after Republicans won control of the chamber in the November elections.

Mr. Watkins said the video did not impact his client’s transfer.

Chansley became the infamous face of the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the Capitol to block the certification of the Biden presidential victory. He was shown shirtless in the Capitol, wearing face paint and a fur-covered headdress with horns.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Republican, called Chansley’s release “amazing.”

“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 Carlson hadn’t put it out, people wouldn’t have seen the truth, and I think that played a big role.”

She said Chansley should seek justice for being railroaded into prison.

“I hope he sues everyone that assassinated his character and lied about him,” Ms. Greene said.

Mr. Watkins did not immediately respond to a request for comment about potential lawsuits on behalf of his client.

The lawyer is calling for sanctions against Justice Department prosecutors over the previously concealed security video footage, which raised new questions about whether Chansley’s actions should have been considered violent. Mr. Watkins told The Washington Times that federal prosecutors had a duty to turn over the video so attorneys 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 could help their case.

“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,” Mr. Watkins said.

Robert Sanders, a law professor at the University of New Haven, said Chansley has no grounds to sue and the newly released video clip shows him acting lawfully after he did not.

“The representation is disingenuous,” he said. “It lacks context.”

Like Ms. Greene, Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, applauded the release of the video footage. He said all 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 his determination of whether sanctions are appropriate against prosecutors handling the Jan. 6 cases depends on whether or not the Justice Department lawyers knew of the exculpatory security video footage.

“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 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.”

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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