Around midday Monday, news surfaced that “Q Shaman” Jacob Chansley apparently had new legal representation: infamous and prolific conservative attorney John Pierce.
Hours later, his existing lawyer, Albert Watkins, denied to TPM that any change had taken place.
Pierce had indicated in a court filing that he’d be taking over Chansley’s case — and said in a statement that he might pursue an appeal based on Watkins’ ineffective legal work.
In an email to TPM a few hours later, Watkins fired back directly at Pierce.
“Upon noting today’s entry of appearance of John M. Pierce, Esq. in Mr. Chansley’s J6 case, Watkins personally spoke with Mr. Chansley who confirmed he did not personally authorize Mr. Pierce to represent him and confirmed Watkins’ continuing representation of the man who has become universally known as ‘The Shaman,’” Watkins wrote.
Pierce did not immediately return TPM’s emailed request for comment on Watkin’s statement. A phone call addressed to Pierce went to a voicemail that had not been set up.
Watkins, too, said he had not heard back from Pierce. “Watkins issued a letter to Mr. Pierce confirming he had not received any contact from Mr. Pierce and requesting the prompt withdrawal of his entry of appearance,” he told TPM in an email. “No response from Pierce has been forthcoming.”
Pierce is the former Kyle Rittenhouse attorney who has represented more than a dozen different defendants charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. He made headlines in August after suddenly disappearing for more than a week, and came back only saying that he had been hospitalized while declining to state why.
In a court filing in Chansley’s criminal case and a statement midday Monday, Piece claimed to be repping Chansley as the Q Shaman mulled whether to file a direct appeal of his conviction and sentence of 41 months in prison, imposed last week by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth for the District of Columbia.
Lamberth had not yet approved Pierce’s request; nor had Watkins petitioned for the judge to allow him to depart the case.
The statement, issued by a non-profit associated with Pierce, indicated that Chansley may file claims of “ineffective assistance of counsel” — in effect arguing that the Q Shaman was so poorly represented that his conviction should be reversed. The statement said William Shipley, another attorney who has represented Jan. 6 defendants, would be representing Chansley alongside Pierce.
“It appears a third-party named under a power-of-attorney for financial matters for Mr. Chansley may have attempted to use the power-of-attorney to serve as authority to engage Mr. Pierce,” Watkins told TPM.
Watkins’ representation of Chansley caused a stir earlier this year, when he remarked that many of the Jan. 6 defendants are “short-bus people.”
“A lot of these defendants — and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully — but they’re all fucking short-bus people,” Watkins told TPM. “These are people with brain damage, they’re fucking retarded, they’re on the goddamn spectrum.”
That statement led one co-defendant of the attorney’s clients to say that Watkins had made a fair trial impossible.
On Jan. 6, Chansley paraded around the Capitol building in full shamanic regalia, making it to the Senate dais while carrying a spear. Federal prosecutors said that he left a note for Mike Pence during his time in the chambers of power which read “justice is coming.”
For Chansley, justice began to arrive three days later, on his Jan. 9 arrest.
With Watkins representing him, Chansley pleaded guilty to a single count of obstructing a congressional proceeding in September. Per that agreement, Chansley agreed to a sentence range of between 41 and 51 months in prison.
Judge Lambert sentenced Chansley last week to the lower end of that range, imposing a sentence of 41 months followed by three years probation.
The National Constitutional Law Union, a non-profit that Pierce founded, issued the statement announcing Pierce’s representation of Chansley. It said that funds from the organization will finance Pierce’s representation of Chansley.
It also cast Chansley and other Jan. 6 defendants as participants in “protests,” while noting that the group is “committed to zealously defending their interests against the predations of governmental actors.”