Prosecutors walk back claims Capitol rioters intended to 'capture and assassinate' elected officials

Capitol riots man with horns Jacob Chansley
Posted at 12:13 PM, Jan 15, 2021

PHOENIX — The prosecutor leading the investigation into the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week says authorities have no direct evidence that the rioters were plotting to assassinate officials.

The comments from acting District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin on Friday afternoon are in response to statements made by prosecutors in court papersfiled in the case against one of the rioters, Jacob Chansley, that there was strong evidence that the mob intended to “capture and assassinate elected officials.”

Sherwin backed away from that claim, telling reporters that authorities have “no direct evidence at this point of kill, capture teams.”

Sherwin suggested the claim was the result of a disconnect between federal authorities, or that possibly the prosecutor in Arizona acted on information that was not yet known to officials in Washington.

According to the Associated Press, a memo written to a judge urging that Chansley be kept behind bars, prosecutors claimed that Chansley intended to do harm to elected officials. Chansley is the man who was seen in widely-shared images wearing face paint, no shirt and a furry hat with horns.

"Strong evidence, including Chansley's own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States Government," the memo read.

Prosecutors went on to say that after Chansley climbed up to the dais where Vice President Mike Pence had been presiding moments earlier, Chansley wrote a threatening note to Pence.

In one picture, U.S. Capitol police officer Keith Robishaw was attempting to quell the crowd and move them out of the area. According to federal prosecutors, "Chansley approached Officer Robishaw and screamed, among other things, that this was their house, and that they were there to take the Capitol, and to get Congressional leaders."

Chansley also "used his bullhorn to communicate that they were there to take out several United States congressmen," according to the brief.

The brief also said Chansley "made himself the most prominent symbol" of the "violent insurrection that attempted to overthrow the United States Government" and he had planned to return to Washington for Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.

The federal court's pretrial services report recommended that Chansley be released pending trial. The U.S. Attorney's brief said that report missed key information, including Chansley's use of psychedelic drugs, mental health concerns relating to his QAnon conspiracy beliefs, and his ability to raise money in non-traditional ways contributing to his risk of flight.

The report recommended that Chansley be released pending trial because the risks of flight and danger can be minimized by random drug testing, employment requirements, and documented travel only for the purpose of court appearances in the District of Columbia.

A detention hearing is scheduled for Friday. Chansley faces a six-count federal indictment, including two felonies and four misdemeanors.

Chansley, also known as the QAnon Shaman, is a fixture in the baseless, far-right conspiracy theory that claims Trump's political enemies are pedophiles and cannibals.

This story was originally published by Melissa Blasius on KNXV in Phoenix.