QAnon Shaman’s lawyer argues that his shirtlessness on Jan. 6 is evidence of his ‘mental vulnerabilities’

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Jacob Chansley, also known as the QAnon Shaman, inside the Capitol on January 6. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • A lawyer for the QAnon Shaman filed a new pretrial release motion for the Arizona native on Wednesday.
  • In it, attorney Albert Watkins argues that his client’s mental health is deteriorating.
  • Watkins also claims that the defendant helped “protect” law enforcement during the Capitol riot.
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A lawyer for Jacob Angeli Chansley, also known as the QAnon Shaman, claims the notorious defendant’s “shirtless presentation” during the January 6 Capitol riot is evidence of his “mental vulnerabilities” – which have only increased in the past five months as Chansley remains detained, his attorney, Albert Watkins argues in a new pretrial release motion.

“The acuity of the vulnerable Defendant has waned with each passing day of solitary confinement,” Watkins writes in court documents reviewed by Insider. “The effects of same, like ivy, have slept, crept, and now leapt.”

Adorned with a horned headdress and face paint, Chansley became one of the most recognizable attendees at the Capitol on January 6, photographed with his bullhorn and flagpole throughout the building that day.

Now, Watkins says his client’s decision to go shirtless “in the cold of a Washington, DC, winter day” indicates pre-existing “mental vulnerabilities.”

In a 42-page motion submitted Wednesday, Watkins appeals for Chansley’s pretrial release a second time, arguing that despite the government’s previous claims, there is no evidence the Arizona native was violent during the insurrection or poses a continuing threat to others.

In a litany of anecdotes from January 6, Watkins paints a picture of Chansley as a peaceful participant who listened to and assisted law enforcement inside the Capitol, even including a video claiming to show Chansley “thwarting a crime” by yelling at another person who was trying to steal a muffin from a Capitol break room.

Watkins also argues that Chansley was supportive of law enforcement, going so far as to “protect” them by “attempting to “force another fur wearing ‘caveman’ attendee at the Capitol to return a shield taken from law enforcement.”

Much of Watkins’ new appeal hangs on his claim that the government has not sought detention for defendants whose conduct he argues “is indistinguishable or worse (significantly worse) than the well documented conduct of Chansley.”

The attorney includes a slew of video evidence that he argues disproves the government’s earlier assertion that Chansley was among the first wave of protesters to enter the Capitol. Chansley, for his part, claimed in a jailhouse interview with “60 Minutes+” earlier this year that officers “waved” protesters in, which he said signaled to him that his entrance was “acceptable.”

But in a March motion remanding Chansley into custody, federal Judge Royce Lamberth skewered Chansley’s story, saying the 33-year-old “blatantly lied” about his alleged invitation into the building. Later that month, the court released two videos they said disproved Chansley’s claim.

Watkins closed out his Wednesday motion with a final appeal for Chansley’s release for the sake of his mental health. The attorney said Chansley has been held in solitary confinement for 22 hours or more per day since he was arrested in early January after self-surrendering.

Last week, Watkins said in court that Chansley’s mental health continues to rapidly decline, prompting the court to order him to undergo a mental health evaluation. Prosecutors noted they will continue to oppose any motion for his release.

Watkins sparked outrage in following days for calling Chansley and others charged in connection with the riot “f—ing short-bus people,” “people with brain damage,” an offensive term for someone with a developmental disability, and autistic.

He told Insider that his statements were “politically incorrect,” but said there was “reason and purpose” behind 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.”

Chansley’s first pretrial release request was denied earlier this year. He was indicted on six federal charges and could face 25 years or more in prison if convicted.