Alleged January 6 rioter stays jailed, Oath Keeper released

Q Shaman Jacob Chansley claims his faith ‘precludes’ him from taking COVID vaccine, but judge denies release.

Jacob Anthony Chansley poses with his face painted in the colours of the US flag as supporters of then-President Donald Trump gather on January 6, 2021 [File: Stephanie/Reuters]

Legal proceedings over criminal charges related to the January 6 Capitol Hill riot continue in the United States as judges decide to keep some figures in pretrial detention while others are set free.

Jacob Chansley, 33, the man known as the “Q Shaman”, who was pictured wearing fur and horns inside the Senate, was ordered to remain in jail ahead of his trial on Monday by US District Court Judge Royce C Lamberth.

Lawyers for Chansley claimed in court documents last month he cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19 due to his religion, which makes it difficult to speak with his legal representation, given safety protocols.

Court documents claim Chansley practices what appears to be a proprietary form of shamanism, taking aspects from the wide-ranging QAnon set of conspiracies, the framework of which is that a global cabal of elites work to advance a liberal agenda and harvest the blood of children to stay young, established religions.

Jacob Chansley, poses for an undated booking photograph at the William G Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia, near Washington, DC [Alexandria Sheriff’s Office/Handout via Reuters]

QAnon adherents believe former President Donald Trump was chosen to defeat the cabal, which observers believe was a motivating factor in the January 6 riot, largely attended by members of the far-right and militias, that disrupted Congress during a joint session certifying President Joe Biden’s November electoral victory.

Chat rooms used by purported QAnon adherents are currently filled with anti-vaccine rhetoric, as the jab becomes more widely available in the US.

Chansley’s lawyers wrote his “longstanding status as a practicing Shaman precludes him from feeding into his body any vaccination”.

The argument did not hold water for the judge. “To put it plainly, defendant’s religious objection to the COVID-19 vaccine is not a relevant reason, let alone a ‘compelling reason,’ to grant his temporary release,” Lamberth wrote in the opinion denying Chansley’s release.

While Chansley will remain in pretrial detention, a member of a militia involved in the January 6 riot was granted bail in a separate case on Monday.

According to court papers, Roberto Minuta, 36, who owns a tattoo shop in Newburgh, New York, “berated and taunted” US Capitol Police while clad in military-style gear, then attacked the Capitol and disrupted Congress as it was certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory.

Minuta later deleted a Facebook account to “conceal his involvement in these offenses”, the court papers said. He faces charges of obstructing an official proceeding, unlawful entry and tampering with documents.

Assistant US Attorney Benjamin Gianforti said Minuta was a danger to the community and should have been held in custody, arguing he had been “spoiling for a fight of some kind”, and his motivations remain. Gianforti also cited his gun ownership as a reason for detention.

A federal public defender, Ben Gold, countered that gun ownership was no reason to detain Minuta and that the defendant was planning to sell the guns. Krause ordered that Minuta get rid of his guns by Tuesday.

Bail was set at $150,000 by US Magistrate Judge Andrew Krause at a hearing in White Plains, New York, two days after the defendant’s arrest.

Krause said while the charges were “most certainly” serious, he saw no evidence Minuta had committed violence, and that prosecutors may have overstated the risk of violence because he had worn military-style gear.

Krause said the defendant may travel between New York and Texas, where his wife and two children live. He faces charges of obstructing an official proceeding, unlawful entry and tampering with documents.

Members of the Oath Keepers militia group, among supporters of former US President Donald Trump, march near the US Capitol  in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021 [File: Jim Bourg/Reuters]

Minuta is the latest alleged associate of the Oath Keepers to face charges for his role in the Capitol riots, in which more than 100 police officers were assaulted, one was killed, and the Capitol suffered millions of dollars in damages.

Last month, a grand jury indicted nine associates of the Oath Keepers on charges they conspired to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory. Several of them have since pleaded not guilty.

More than 300 people have been arrested by authorities in relation to the January 6 riot as law enforcement continues investigating the event.

The FBI released further images and a video on Tuesday of a person suspected of placing pipe bombs in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood, near the Capitol, on January 5.

The photos give clear images of the alleged perpetrator’s shoes. The video appears to show a person placing a bag in front of a home in the neighbourhood.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies