The decade's most triggering comedy
An attorney for the so-called “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley asked federal prosecutors repeatedly for all videos showing his client inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, yet told The Daily Wire he never received the bombshell – and potentially exculpatory – footage aired Monday night by Tucker Carlson.
Albert Watkins, whose client Jacob Chansley pleaded guilty to felony charges in connection with the Capitol riot and was sentenced to 41 months in prison, said Department of Justice prosecutors were legally bound to turn over the footage. Clips shown on Carlson’s Fox News Channel program show Chansley walking freely and peaceably through the building, often accompanied by multiple police officers.
“We did not receive that video footage,” Watkins said. “We asked for it, and not just once or twice. Whether we asked for it or not is irrelevant because the government had an absolute, non-compromisible duty to disclose that video and they did not do so.”
“And all the while, they were actively representing to the court and the American people that Jake was a leader, leading the charge into the Capitol,” he said. “They did not disclose that footage because it ran contrary to their rote narrative.”
Watkins, an attorney for nearly 40 years, told The Daily Wire he was stunned to see the footage, which he could have used to defend Chansley.
“I’ve never seen anything so vile as what I’m seeing right now,” he said. “It’s a departure from a pretty high standard they’ve maintained for a long time. Anyone who needs to have belief in the integrity of our justice system, whether they’re a left-wing New England academic or a raging right-winger, needs to say that this is really wrong and f—ing it up for everyone.”
🚨BREAKING: Never before seen video of January 6 shows Jacob Chansley, the QAnon Shaman, being led through the Capitol by police the entire time that he was in the building. pic.twitter.com/rikoRMWezF
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 7, 2023
Watkins said anger now being focused on Carlson for locating and airing the footage should be directed at prosecutors who appeared to violate rules established in the landmark Supreme Court case U.S. v Brady, which cemented that prosecutors must turn over relevant information to defense attorneys, particularly exculpatory evidence.
“Looking at the news, half of it is getting mad at Tucker,” Watkins said. “What the f— does Tucker have to do with any of this? Except that he was smart enough to get it in our faces.”
“It’s appalling,” he continued. “Whether you’re right-leaning, you like Tucker Carlson, you hate Tucker Carlson, is irrelevant. This is about putting a dagger in the heart of our justice system. And the person holding the dagger and thrusting it with all its might is our Department of Justice. This required collaboration from the top of the Justice Department right down to the Assistant U.S. Attorney lying to me, a fellow officer of the court, knowing I had a duty to put my client in the best position I could based on the evidence.”
Chansley in September of 2021 pleaded guilty to unlawfully obstructing an official proceeding. Watkins no longer represents him.
Kimberly Paschall, the assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia who Watkins said lied, did not immediately return a request for comment. A spokesman for her boss, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves, declined to comment even though Chansley’s case is not ongoing.
Federal Judge Royce Lamberth, who presided over the case, should sanction the federal prosecutors, Watkins said.
“This is as egregious a violation of the trust as I have seen, with the exception of hiding DNA evidence in a murder case,” he said. “If I’m a federal judge and find out that indeed I was played a fool, I was duped by an assistant U.S. attorney that lied to me repeatedly while Mr. Watkins was yelling that no one was more peaceful than Jacob, and I’m making rulings based on what the government is saying, I’d be one pissed off federal judge.”
Those issues should be considered in the many January 6 cases still open, Watkins said. Since Chansley was sentenced more than a year ago, the judge no longer has jurisdiction over the case, he said. The remedy is a “special writ of habeas corpus—it’s an extraordinary remedy but one that’s warranted here.”
Court filings in Chansley’s case corroborate Watkins’ claim that he repeatedly asked for all videos of his client.
“Our position is that the government must identify any evidence it believes to capture [defendant], regardless of whether it intends to rely on the same in its case in chief,” one said.
In another discovery request, Watkins wrote that “I am also concerned about the thousands or tens of thousands videos the government has received from public sources, particularly how the government is searching, indexing, and storing these videos, and whether the government is withholding any video footage in its possession; Based on my review of the discovery thus far, there is official video surveillance and publicly sourced video footage that is exculpatory to the defendants. Many of those videos show [defendant] and other[s] peacefully walking around the Capitol. In these videos, they, like thousands of others, are doing nothing illegal with the possible exception of being present in the building, all of which is potentially exculpatory.”
Paschall wrote in the case September 17, 2021 that the government was setting up a “global” video dump for all defendants to use. It would be hosted on “evidence.com for voluminous digital media materials (e.g., body-worn-camera footage and U.S. Capitol Police (‘USCP’) surveillance footage),” she wrote. “Further, we will ensure that all Capitol Breach legal defense teams will have access to the same platforms, including technological functionality commensurate to that available to the government, for the purpose of receiving and reviewing discoverable materials.”
But by that time, Chansley had already entered a guilty plea which allowed him to get out of solitary confinement. Even when Watkins looked at the evidence platform–he has represented four January 6 defendants–it did not actually allow lawyers to filter and navigate the videos using the same methods available to law enforcement, he said; it was merely a giant dump of generically presented videos, he said. noting that even now, he has not been able to find the video played by Tucker Carlson using the government’s system. He said the government’s responsibility is to provide evidence pertaining to specific defendants, not a giant dump of all Capitol videos—and that they do have such technology on the government’s side.
In numerous other January 6 cases, the government has admitted to using facial recognition software to identify which videos show which people. The high-tech methods used to navigate each frame of Capitol video footage were so advanced that it even connected drivers license photos to a system to identify who was in which video.
“They have a team of IT people that are able to say this camera is covering this area, we’re doing this for Jake, and they can go from camera to camera, sweep it up and spit it into a government dropbox,” Watkins said.
On February 27, Ryan Nichols, a January 6 defendant who is headed to trial, filed a motion that said Tucker Carlson gained access to 41,000 hours of CCTV footage, “more than double the amount of CCTV footage previously thought to exist. Undersigned Counsel has obtained permission to examine the totality of the abovementioned footage. Importantly, since this newly discovered evidence was made available, we have already learned information directly relevant to Defendant’s case. Defendant’s position is simple and straightforward: there is no justifiable reason why this newly available evidence had not been made available before today.”
Nichols also moved to remove a protective order that has gagged defense attorneys from sharing video with the public, saying that law enforcement openly appealed to “crowdsourcing” to help identify January 6 suspects, and crowdsourcing is also needed to comb through the footage for exculpatory evidence.
“Because it would take a single individual over five years to view 44,000 hours of video, it is impossible for any one Defendant to review this discovery comprehensively,” Nichols’ lawyers wrote.