An attorney famous for representing alleged Capitol rioters announced Monday he’s taking over as Jacob Chansley’s lawyer, and may appeal the so-called QAnon Shaman’s 41-month prison sentence — but Chansley’s longstanding attorney says his client never agreed to make this change, an unexpected turn for one of the highest-profile Capitol riot defendants.
John Pierce — who has represented over a dozen other alleged January 6 rioters and runs the nonprofit National Constitutional Law Union — filed papers in federal court Monday indicating he will serve as Chansley’s counsel.
In a statement to Forbes, the NCLU claimed Pierce and attorney William Shipley will take over Chansley’s case from lawyer Albert Watkins, and said they’re considering appealing Chansley’s sentence or conviction and claiming he had “ineffective assistance of counsel.”
Hours later, Watkins responded with his own statement, claiming Chansley confirmed in a conversation Monday that Watkins is still his lawyer and “he did not personally authorize Mr. Pierce to represent him.”
Watkins says he’s asked Pierce to withdraw his court filings seeking to take over Chansley’s case.
Forbes has reached out to Pierce for comment.
With his horned helmet and face paint, Chansley is one of the most recognizable people who entered the U.S. Capitol building on January 6. He was arrested in Phoenix days after the breach, he pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding in September and a federal judge sentenced him to 41 months in prison last week. Watkins argued Chansley is nonviolent and has suffered from mental health issues, but prosecutors called him the “public face of the Capitol riot.” Chansley’s case drew considerable attention: He stopped eating for more than a week earlier this year because his pretrial jail didn’t serve the all-organic diet he says is mandated by his shamanistic religion, and Watkins suggested former President Donald Trump should pardon his client. Watkins also told Talking Points Memo many of the January 6 defendants have “brain damage” and are “fucking short-bus people” — remarks he later said were meant to bring attention to Chansley’s mental health needs.
Pierce is known for representing contentious figures, including at least 17 alleged Capitol rioters. In August, federal prosecutors handling the Capitol riot cases said they’d lost contact with Pierce for over a week, and associates gave conflicting reasons for his sudden disappearance, but Pierce later reemerged and told NPR he was hospitalized for 12 days for undisclosed reasons. Pierce also represented Kyle Rittenhouse shortly after he was charged with killing two people at a protest in Wisconsin last year, and he unsuccessfully tried to stop Wisconsin authorities from extraditing the Illinois teenager, though Rittenhouse (who was acquitted of all charges last week) reportedly fired Pierce earlier this year.
‘QAnon Shaman’ Jacob Chansley Sentenced To 41 Months In Prison — One Of The Longest Capitol Riot Sentences So Far (Forbes)