Early Release of ‘QAnon Shaman’ Due to Plea and Prison Protocols, Contrary to Online Claims

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Quick Take

Jacob Chansley, also known as the “QAnon Shaman,” was sentenced to 41 months in prison for participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, but he was released early to a halfway house on March 28 because of his plea agreement and prison protocols. Social media posts falsely claim that his release was due to videos shown by Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson.


Full Story 

On Jan. 6, 2021, the U.S. Capitol building was stormed by a mob of more than 2,000 protesters driven by false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” — a narrative pushed by former President Donald Trump and other Republicans. More than 1,000 people have been arrested for the assault on the Capitol, including more than 500 who have pleaded guilty, according to the Department of Justice.

One of the high-profile arrests was Jacob Chansley, also known as the “QAnon Shaman” or Jake Angeli, who was filmed and photographed inside the Capitol during the riot wearing a horned, furry headdress, face paint and no shirt. 

Chansley pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of an official proceeding as part of a plea deal with the government.

Chansley, who was one of the first 30 people to enter the Capitol building, faced a maximum of 20 years in prison for his obstruction charge but received a 41-month sentence on Nov. 17, 2021. He was also required to pay $2,000 in restitution for damages at the Capitol.

At his sentencing, Chansley said, “I was wrong for entering the Capitol… I have no excuse. No excuse whatsoever. The behavior is indefensible.”

Due to Federal Bureau of Prisons protocols and his plea agreement, Chansley — who had served 16 months of his prison sentence — was transferred to a halfway house in Phoenix on March 28 and is expected to be released on May 25. 

But posts on social media falsely claim that Chansley was released early from prison because videos shared by Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson proved his innocence.

As we previously wrote, Carlson on his March 6 show advanced the false narrative that the rioters “were not insurrectionists, they were sightseers,” using surveillance footage from that day that he had obtained from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. “The tapes show the Capitol Police never stopped Jacob Chansley. They helped him. They acted as his tour guides,” Carlson falsely claimed.

“BREAKING NEWS: ‘QAnon Shaman’ Jacob Chansley is freed from prison 14 months early after his lawyer said J6 footage showing him being escorted into Senate by cops was exculpatory,” read a post on Facebook. 

Another post claimed, “Q Shaman has been RELEASED following video evidence showing that January 6 was a hoax & inside job!”

But the claims in the posts are wrong. 

Chansley’s move to a halfway house wasn’t connected to the recently released videos.

Albert Watkins, the lawyer who represented Chansley during the trial, told us in an email, “The release of Mr. Chansley was solely a decision of the Bureau of Prisons and was based on the plea agreement, sentence, and the protocols of the Bureau of Prisons.”

“It was a decision which was part of an established protocol in place since well prior to the release of the videos,” Watkins said.

Emery Nelson, a spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, told us in an email, “Jacob Anthony Chansley transferred on March 28, 2023, from the Federal Correctional Institution Safford to community confinement overseen by the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) Phoenix Residential Reentry Management (RRM) Office.”

“Community confinement means the inmate is in either home confinement or a Residential Reentry Center (RRC, or halfway house). Mr. Chansley’s projected release date from custody is May 25, 2023, via First Step Act release,” Nelson said.

Nelson directed us to more information on the First Step Act, a law passed in 2018 that required the attorney general to develop a system for the Bureau of Prisons to assess the recidivism risk and needs of federal prisoners.

“While we don’t discuss a specific inmate’s release method, we can share that an inmate may earn good conduct time. Prior to the FSA, qualifying inmates earned up to 54 days of good conduct time for each year served” and the bureau “pro-rated the amount of good conduct time earned for the final year of service of sentence. Under the amendments made by the FSA, qualifying inmates will be eligible to earn up to 54 days of good conduct time for each year of the sentence imposed by the court,” Nelson said.


Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.

Sources

Allen, Mike. “Exclusive: McCarthy gives Tucker Carlson access to trove of Jan. 6 riot tape.” Axios. 20 Feb 2023. 

Fichera, Angelo. “Bogus Antifa Claims Follow Capitol Riot.” FactCheck.org. Update 24 May 2021. 

Fichera, Angelo. “Video Doesn’t Prove Capitol Police Allowed Jan. 6 Protesters to Enter Capitol.” FactCheck.org. 21 May 2021. 

Federal Bureau of Prisons. First Step Act. Accessed 3 Apr 2023. 

Federal Bureau of Prisons. “First Step Act of 2018 – Time Credits: Procedures for Implementation of 18 U.S.C. § 3632(d)(4).” 6 Feb 2023. 

Kim, Juliana. “U.S. Capitol rioter the ‘QAnon Shaman’ is released early from federal prison.” NPR. 31 Mar 2023. 

Lucas, Ryan. “Where the Jan. 6 insurrection investigation stands, one year later.” NPR. 6 Jan 2022.

Nelson, Emery. Spokesperson, Federal Bureau of Prisons. Email to FactCheck.org. 3 Apr 2023. 

Department of Justice. “One Year Since the Jan. 6 Attack on the Capitol.” 6 Jan 2022.

National Institute of Justice. “Recidivism.” Accessed 3 Apr 2023. 

Spencer, Saranac, et al. “Explaining the Missing Context of Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 Presentation.” FactCheck.org. 10 Mar 2023.

Watkins, Albert. Attorney. Email to FactCheck.org. 3 Apr 2023. 

Gerstein, Josh and Kyle Cheney. “‘QAnon shaman’ Jacob Chansley is sentenced to 41 months in prison.“ Politico. 17 Nov 2021. 

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