Judge Orders Mental Evaluation Of ‘QAnon Shaman’ After Lawyer Insults ‘Short Bus’ Defendants

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: A protester screams "Freedom" inside the Senate chamber after the U.S. Capitol was breached by a mob during a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress hel... WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: A protester screams "Freedom" inside the Senate chamber after the U.S. Capitol was breached by a mob during a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Capitol building during demonstrations in the nation's capital. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 21, 2021 6:30 p.m.

A federal judge on Friday ordered a mental health evaluation for Jacob Chansley, the Capitol attack defendant whose attorney made vulgar comments to TPM about how many defendants in the case were “fucking short-bus people” with brain damage. 

Chansley, known as the “QAnon Shaman” has suffered mentally in federal detention, his lawyer Albert Watkins told TPM Friday. Watkins has maintained that his insensitive language about people with mental health conditions was a deliberate ploy to draw attention to the case. 

“Having found reasonable cause to believe that a competency examination of defendant Jacob Anthony Chansley is warranted, the Court hereby orders that a psychological examination be conducted,” the judge in Chansley’s case wrote after a brief hearing Friday.

Prosecutors did not object to the competency examination but said the same would not apply if Chansley’s attorney attempted to get him out of pretrial detention. 

On the phone with TPM, Watkins declined to discuss long-term strategy, saying the request for a mental health evaluation came in response to the toll detention had taken on his client.

“That decline that I have seen is one which started out slowly and worked into a full-fledged gallop over the last week,” he said of Chansley. 

The last time Watkins spoke to TPM, he referred to “a lot” of Capitol riot attendees as brain damaged, “fucking retarded” and on the autism spectrum. He said his own client has Asperger’s syndrome, which in recent years has been considered part of the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. 

On the phone Friday, the lawyer’s language had changed. He referred not to “short-bus” defendants but those with “mental health vulnerabilities.” 

He said his clients had not complained to him about his language, even though a codefendant of two other clients of his has asked a judge to be removed from the case — claiming that Watkin’s comments would prevent a fair trial. 

“I have gotten a tremendous amount of support from the neuro-differences community,” Watkins said, before hedging that the support was “not support that was garnered at first blush.”

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