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Self-styled 'QAnon shaman' is sentenced to 41 months in Capitol riot

Jacob Chansley, the self-styled "QAnon shaman," confronts U.S. Capitol Police officers during the January 6 insurrection.
Win McNamee
Getty Images
Jacob Chansley, the self-styled "QAnon shaman," confronts U.S. Capitol Police officers during the January 6 insurrection.

Updated November 17, 2021 at 2:20 PM ET

Jacob Chansley, the self-styled "QAnon shaman" who became one of the faces of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol after storming the building in a fur headdress with horns, has been sentenced to nearly three and a half years in prison for his role in the riot.

Photographs of a bare-chested Chansley carrying a bullhorn and a spear adorned with the American flag while howling in halls of the Capitol became some of the iconic images of that violent, chaotic day.

At a hearing Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced Chansley to 41 months in prison, although he will be given credit for the roughly 10 months he has already served.

"You didn't slug anybody, but what you did here was actually obstruct the functioning of the whole government," Lamberth said. "You know what you did was wrong. I admire you for being able to come to terms."

The Justice Department says Chansley was among the first 30 rioters to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6 as the crowd of Donald Trump supporters overwhelmed police, bashed in windows and pushed into the building. The mob forced lawmakers to flee and temporarily abandon their certification of Joe Biden's election win.

Chansley was arrested days later and indicted on six charges, two of which were felonies, and ordered detained pending trial. He ultimately struck a deal with the government and pleaded guilty in September to a single count of obstruction of an official proceeding.

At Wednesday's hearing, Chansley addressed the court for around 40 minutes. He said he has spent much of the time he's been locked up reflecting on his life and his actions on Jan. 6.

"Men of honor admit when they're wrong. Not just publicly but to themselves," he said. "I was wrong for entering the Capitol. I have no excuse. No excuse whatsoever. The behavior is indefensible."

According to court papers, on Jan. 6, Chansley made his way into the Capitol and onto the floor of the Senate, where he scaled the dais.

After a police officer asked him to leave, Chansley refused and said: "Mike Pence is a f****** traitor." On the desk at the dais, Chansley scrawled a note on a piece of paper that read: "It's Only A Matter of Time. Justice Is Coming!"

Chansley also led rioters in an incantation over his bullhorn, which he concluded with the words: "Thank you for allowing us to get rid of the communists, the globalists, and the traitors within our government."

At Wednesday's hearing, Chansley admitted that he was guilty, but also said he's not a "dangerous criminal."

"I am not a violent man. I am not an insurrectionist. I am certainly not a domestic terrorist," Chansley told the court. "I am a good man who broke the law. And I'm doing everything I can to take responsibility for that."

He said he's struggled with mental health issues for years, a problem exacerbated by being locked up. He also said his time in custody has taught him a lesson.

"I will never re-offend again," he said. "And I will always, from here on forward, think about the ramifications of everything that I do and what it is I say and how it will be perceived."

Before announcing his sentence, Judge Lamberth told Chansley he believes that his remorse is genuine and heartfelt, but he also told Chansley that "what you did was terrible."

He said Chansley had made the right decision to plead guilty and take responsibility for his actions, instead of going to trial where he faced a much longer possible sentence.

"You were facing 20 years, Mr. Chansley. The one advantage you get here is you're only facing now 41 months," Lamberth said. "It may not feel it today, but let me guarantee you, you were smart and did the right thing."

The sentenced handed down was less than the 51 months the Justice Department had recommended for Chansley, whom prosecutors described as the "flag bearer" of the Capitol riot.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall told the court at the start of the hearing that such a sentence was necessary "to send a strong message" to Chansley and anyone who would wish to do harm to the country.

"The message today," she said, "is don't. Don't think that your illegal actions come here without consequences."

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Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.