'QAnon Shaman' Attorney Defends Use of Vulgar Language for Client Jacob Chansley, known as the QAnon Shaman, is seen at the Capital protest. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Wednesday, 19 May 2021 11:09 AM
Albert Watkins, the attorney representing "QAnon Shaman" Jacob Chansley and three other Jan. 6 Capitol defendants, on Wednesday refused to apologize for using slurs in a profanity-laced interview to compare people charged after the protests to people with mental disabilities, saying his "vulgar" language was necessary to make people pay attention to their plight.
"For five months, I've worked diligently, not just with the assistant U.S. Attorney, the Department of Justice, the courts but with the national media," Watkins argued with CNN "New Day" anchor John Berman. "I was on with (CNN's) Chris Cuomo when he decided the way to respond to my suggestion that these people needed compassion and patience and help was to call them crazy."
Watkins said he also allowed the Department of Justice the opportunity to meet with Chansley, "the guy who was shirtless with horns, tattoos, fur, to have them understand and appreciate the special needs of my client. I let them talk to my client while he was confined not once, not twice, but multiple times. And I got nowhere."
In his profanity-filled interview with Talking Points Memo Tuesday, Watkins said Chansley has Asperger's syndrome and said the "propaganda" efforts used by former President Donald Trump will play a role in his defense.
"A lot of these defendants — and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully — but they’re all f*****g short-bus people,” Watkins told TPM. "These are people with brain damage, they’re f*****g retarded, they’re on the g***amn spectrum. But they’re our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our coworkers — they’re part of our country. These aren’t bad people, they don’t have prior criminal history. F***, they were subjected to four-plus years of g***amn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since f*****g Hitler.”
Watkins comments come after he filed court papers claiming that Trump duped Chansley and other gullible defendants with his talk of election fraud, but now he is under fire from the Special Olympics and other advocacy groups who accuse him of using hate speech in the interview.
When Berman asked Watkins how "offending millions of Americans" will help Chansley and other clients, the attorney responded that he'd "acted professionally" and offered the DOJ to meet with Chansley so they could appreciate his "condition, the special needs" but that got him nowhere.
"All I had to do was get vulgar, get vulgar in a short sound bite-driven quote that permitted this very issue," said Watkins.
"How are you serving the American people by using hate speech like this as the Special Olympics says?" said Berman. "I mean, you can get attention by setting your hair on fire. It doesn't mean you should do it."
"The good news is I'm not setting my hair on fire," said Watkins. "When you're done pontificating, I'm ready to talk."
He continued that what he wants to do is "spotlight the fact that our nation is running a gulag" by taking people like Chansley "with vulnerabilities, with special needs, with sensitivities that put them in a category of being outside of what medical science may say is the bell curve of normalcy" in solitary confinement "for 23 hours a day."
Berman asked him if he has evidence that people with special needs would act criminally, and Watkins argued that someone like his client "does not take or receive social cues the way others do, and when the government is aware of that, when the government has a duty and an obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence to me and they don't. "
He also instead that there is "no evidence" to prove that his client acted in a violent way.
Watkins also said that he doesn't think a Trump "made them do it" defense works with all clients, or even that the former president's actions caused his own clients to break the law.
"What I'm saying is, the words and the actions of Trump absolutely have to be kept into consideration when you're evaluating the culpability of a criminally accused," said Watkins. "That's different from evaluating the guilt."
Meanwhile, Watkins said he wants Trump to answer what he meant when he told supporters on Jan. 6 that "we're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue together."
"Why would you say that and not go down with them?" said Watkins. "Why would you call these people beautiful people? Why choose that word? Why choose that word and then turn your back and walk into the sunset, hand in hand with Lil' Wayne getting a pardon?"