Albert Watkins, the Clayton lawyer representing a high-profile member of the accused U.S. Capitol insurrectionists, hinted in a hearing Friday that his client may cooperate with federal prosecutors.
Watkins sought the hearing in an attempt to free from jail before trial Jacob A. Chansley, the horns- and fur-wearing conspiracy theory adherent prominent in many photos and videos from the Jan. 6 riot. Both in court and in court documents, Watkins has said former President Donald Trump encouraged rioters to go into the Capitol. He also said a peaceful Chansley was not in the first two waves that stormed the building, and instead was invited by police.
Chansley, often called the “QAnon Shaman,” has pleaded not guilty to two felony and four misdemeanor charges stemming from his involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach.
Watkins also mentioned a specific section of the federal sentencing guidelines, 5K1.1, that rewards defendants who have “provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense.” Watkins did not detail what form that cooperation might take, acknowledging twice that he was speaking during a public hearing. The lawyer suggested that any efforts would be easier if Chansley were not jailed.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall did not respond to Watkins’ statements about cooperation, but said there was no way Chansley could have believed police were welcoming rioters into the building, as an alarm was going off and others broke through windows. Chansley was also asked multiple times to exit the building before leaving a note that read, “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming,” for Vice President Mike Pence, who’d fled just minutes earlier.
She said Chansley had traveled to Washington with others and had a large online following, and there would be no guarantee that he wouldn’t continue pushing his false claims about election fraud once released.
U.S. District Judge Judge Royce C. Lamberth did not immediately rule on the issue, but did ask Watkins how he’d arranged an interview between Chansley and “60 Minutes,” saying he’d not given permission for it, as required.
Lamberth said jailers were not told about the interview, calling it “subterfuge,” and said jail staff had told Watkins that he needed permission for an interview.
Watkins told Lamberth that he didn’t tell the jail it was an attorney-client interview, nor did he tell them “60 Minutes” would be there.
“I’m sure you didn’t,” Lamberth replied. “You knew they wouldn’t have authorized it.”
Watkins, often at the center of cases that garner attention, has issued an apology on behalf of Chansley, after first demanding Trump pardon Chansley, then saying Chansley was willing to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial.
One Capitol Police officer died and 140 Capitol and Washington officers were injured during the insurrection, authorities have said. More than 250 people have been charged.