- The lawyer for the “QAnon Shaman” said many Capitol riot defendants have mental impairments.
- Albert Watkins delivered a litany of offensive claims about the defendants’ intelligence levels.
- The attorney told Insider he made the comments to highlight defendants with mental disabilities.
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The outspoken lawyer for one of the Capitol attack defendants said his client and others charged in connection with the riot were especially susceptible to former President Donald Trump’s election lies because of their mental capacity.
Albert Watkins, an attorney for Jacob Chansley, also known as the QAnon Shaman, delivered offensive, expletive-laden remarks on why the insurrection participants would take part in the deadly Capitol attack in a Talking Points Memo article published Tuesday.
“A lot of these defendants – and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully – but they’re all f—ing short-bus people,” Watkins told the outlet. “These are people with brain damage.”
He also called them an offensive term for someone with a developmental disability and suggested they had autism.
After listing the offensive insults against the defendants, Watkins said those traits made many of them deserving of sympathy, suggesting they were subjected to World War II levels of propaganda in the years leading up to January 6.
“But they’re our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our coworkers – they’re part of our country. These aren’t bad people, they don’t have prior criminal history,” Watkins told Talking Points Memo. “F—, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since f—ing Hitler.”
In a comment to Insider, Watkins acknowledged his statements were “politically incorrect” but said there was “reason and purpose” behind his decision to make them.
“My long-standing pleas for compassion and understanding of those involved in the events of January 6 with mental health issues and disabilities have to date fallen on deaf ears,” Watkins said.
“One charged, insensitive, and vulgar statement was all that was required to garner the needed attention to this important aspect of the January 6 defendants,” he added. “I respectfully suggest the next few days and weeks will demonstrate the prudence of this calibrated move.”
Watkins also told Talking Points Memo that his client Chansley had Asperger’s syndrome and said his mental state would play a role in his case.
Adorned with horns, a headdress, and face paint, Chansley became one of the most recognizable people at the Capitol on January 6. He was photographed several times with his bullhorn and flagpole throughout the building that day. He was arrested three days later in his hometown of Phoenix.
He was charged with two felonies and four misdemeanors: civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.
While many of the people charged in the attack have been granted pretrial release, Chansley has remained in federal facilities since his arrest, court records say.
Earlier this year, Watkins, an attorney in St. Louis, unsuccessfully asked for Chansley to be granted pretrial release because of the self-proclaimed shaman’s religious-based dietary needs. The lawyer also said COVID-19 restrictions had made “meaningful, unmonitored” consultation with Chansley impossible.
“Such media appearances are undoubtedly conducive to defense counsel’s fame,” Judge Royce Lamberth wrote. “But they are not at all conducive to an argument that the only way defense counsel could privately communicate with his client is if defendant were temporarily released.”
Some lawyers, including Watkins, told Talking Points Memo that stressing Trump’s role in inciting the Capitol riot may be a path to winning lighter sentences for their clients.
More than 480 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection. Five people died during the attack, including a Capitol Police officer and a woman shot by Capitol Police. In the weeks following the attack, the head of the Capitol Police officers’ union said 140 officers were injured.