Politics 'QAnon Shaman' attorney is 'advocate' with 'big mouth'

17:40  22 may  2021
17:40  22 may  2021 Source:   thehill.com

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The attorney representing self-proclaimed "QAnon Shaman" Jacob Chansley for charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot prides himself on being a "bit egotistical," and having a "big mouth."

a stuffed animal on display: Getty Images © The Hill Getty Images

St. Louis-based lawyer Albert Watkins stirred controversy this week for saying that the rioters who stormed the Capitol were "short-bus" and "retarded" people with "brain damage," who were led astray by former President Trump's claims of fraud in the 2020 election and his call for them to walk toward the Capitol building as lawmakers met to certify President Biden's win.

Watkins is no stranger to controversy.

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He previously defended Mark and Patricia McCloskey after they drew their guns on Black Lives Matter protesters last year, and he stood by his remarks, which came under criticism for insensitivity, as part of his "duty as an advocate to my client."

Watkins, a founding member and senior counsel of the law firm Kodner Watkins, LC, said he stands by his practice's slogan as stated on its website: "Not your traditional law firm."

"We have a long-standing commitment to fighting for the little guy," he told The Hill in an interview. "And what we try to do is we try to level the playing field."

Chansley went viral following the Jan. 6 mob attack for appearing in photographs and videos throughout the Capitol shirtless and wearing a hat with horns. He's one of hundreds of individuals involved in pending criminal cases in connection with the riot.

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The Justice Department has charged Chansley, who has also gone by the name Jake Angeli, with six counts, including civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding and violent entry and disorderly conduct.

Watkins this week said Chansley has Asperger's syndrome and expressed concerns about his client's mental state, noting that the former Navy officer has been kept in solitary confinement since his arrest in early January due to COVID-19 safety protocols.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered that a psychological evaluation be conducted on Chansley to determine if he is suffering from any mental health challenges "rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense."

Watkins told The Hill that his controversial comments were intentionally abrasive.

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He said he chose "carefully" and in a "calibrated fashion" to "employ as many of the wholly vulgar and socially repugnant terms that I could use to create the sound byte that would allow the spotlight to be placed," on the conditions of his client.

"Over the course of the last five, five and a half months, I have worked diligently, professionally, with sensitivity to being politically correct," he said. "I've acted with an elevated degree of concern for the health and welfare of my client as I have witnessed him slowly slip into a very, very tenuous mental state."

"Time increasingly became of the essence," he continued, adding, "The only thing I regret about using those words was that we live in a world where in order to get attention to a very important issue like this, we have to employ the very vulgarities that we find so repugnant."

Watkins also stands by his assertion made in February court documents that it was former President Trump's remarks that led to the riot. He argues Trump's remarks essentially tricked people into going to the Capitol, thinking they could stop President Biden's election.

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"There are millions in this nation who are possessed of mental health issues, mental health vulnerabilities, nuances that had to do with their ability to process social cues, who were targeted and strongly influenced by an overwhelmingly organized and persistent, protracted propaganda," the attorney told The Hill.

Watkins says he is not worried about representing clients who "the world at first blush deemed unworthy."

In the case of the McCloskeys, Watkins said his main goal was turning attention away from the commentary of the couple as "horrible" out-of-touch, wealthy people after the image of them holding guns outside their home went viral.

Instead, Watkins worked to frame them as "property owners" who have a "lawful right to protect their homes, their family, their children, their lives."

In July, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner issued felony charges against the couple for unlawful use of a weapon, and a grand jury in October added a charge of tampering with evidence.

The couple, who last year delivered an address at the Republican National Convention, has pleaded not guilty, and Missouri Gov. Michael Parson (R) said that he "most certainly would" issue a pardon should they be convicted.

Mark McCloskey, a wealthy personal injury lawyer, announced this week that he would be running for the seat of retiring Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R).

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Watkins has a connection to one of McCloskey's primary opponents, former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who resigned in 2018 over allegations that he sexually assaulted his hairdresser and subsequently blackmailed her to keep it private.

Watkins in 2018 represented the hairdresser's ex-husband. He gained media attention at the time when he claimed that he received more than $100,000 from "an unnamed, anonymous wealthy Republican who did not like Greitens."

Scott Faughn, publisher of the Missouri Times and a deeply-connected political figure in the state, said he gave Watkins the money to obtain media recordings of the woman talking about Greitens for a book he was writing. The Los Angeles Times, however, noted in 2018 that other newspapers were able to get the recordings for free.

Despite his past involvement in the case, which in large part fueled Greteins' eventual resignation, Watkins said he wishes "all candidates, my client, Mr. McCloskey, especially, the best of luck."

"Everyone likes, indeed loves, a good redemption story," said Watkins, who was found in contempt in 2018 for violating a gag order in relation to the Greitens case. "But true redemption requires owning one's shortcomings."

"I have no personal issues with Mr. Greitens," the attorney said. "I'm quite confident he will not pick up the phone and call me to go out and have a beer with him. And I'm quite confident that if he did, I would decline."

"But his issues are his issues, they're not mine," he added.

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Though the conference organizer claimed it was not a QAnon event, the event's cowboy hat logo included the initialism "WWG1WGA" a QAnon slogan that stands for "Where we go one, we go all."Lindell signed the quilt along with Lin Wood, a conspiracy theorist and lawyer who is supportive of Republican former President Donald Trump. The quilt was also signed by Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser pardoned by Trump for lying to the FBI.

usr: 1
This is interesting!