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Did Tucker Carlson Help Free the ‘QAnon Shaman’?

Jacob Chansley, the costumed character known as the “QAnon Shaman,” was one of the faces of the January 6 insurrection in 2021, photographed in the spot where Vice President Mike Pence had been standing less than an hour earlier. 

Charged with a long list of crimes — Civil Disorder; Obstruction of an Official Proceeding; Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building; Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building; Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building; Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building — Chansley pled guilty in the fall of 2021 to obstructing an official proceeding and was sentenced to 41 months in prison. 

In recent weeks, especially after Fox News’ Tucker Carlson showed footage from January 6 of Chansley being led around the Capitol that day by Capitol police, there have been calls for him to be freed, including by Elon Musk. 

Now, Chansley has been released from prison early, to a halfway house. But he has not been exonerated, and there doesn’t appear to be any reason to believe the Carlson footage had anything to do with the release. 

According to the Daily Mail, Chansley has been released from prison 14 months early, having served 27 months of the original 41-month sentence. However, the Mail added that “his move to the halfway house appears to be a matter of routine prison policy,” rather than his conviction being vacated or overturned. 

“It is appropriate this gentle and intelligent young man be permitted to move forward with the next stage of what undoubtedly will be a law-abiding and enriching life,” Chansley’s attorney Albert S. Watkins told the press Thursday. 

The decision was made by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, not by a judge, and Chansley’s criminal conviction still stands. He was not freed because anything has changed, in the eyes of the law, about his criminal status. 

But supporters of his implied otherwise. 

“Jacob Chansley is free,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted Thursday. “A J6 political prisoner persecuted for walking in the Capital escorted by police.  He prayed for them and encouraged everyone to be peaceful. I hope he sues everyone that assassinated his character and lied about him.” 

That, and numerous comments from those stating that Chansley was “released from prison following Tucker investigation bombshells,” implied that Chansley has been found innocent and exonerated, as a direct result of Tucker Carlson’s footage. But that is very much not what happened.  

“Federal inmates can receive a 15 percent reduction in their prison sentence for good behavior, and can also serve the final 12 months of their sentences in halfway houses at the discretion of the Bureau of Prisons,” the Mail said, which appears to have been the case here. 

Federal prosecutors have not taken the position that the Tucker Carlson broadcast has served to exonerate January 6 defendants, especially those already convicted, including Chansley specifically. They have stated the exact opposite in court filings. 

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“Chansley was not some passive, chaperoned observer of events for the roughly hour that he was unlawfully inside the Capitol,” prosecutors said in a filing earlier this month, as reported by CNN. “He was part of the initial breach of the building; he confronted law enforcement for roughly 30 minutes just outside the Senate Chamber; he gained access to the gallery of the Senate along with other members of the mob (obviously, precluding any Senate business from occurring); and he gained access to and later left the Senate floor only after law enforcement was able to arrive en masse to remove him.”

Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.



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