The law is a living, breathing thing. Cases of first impression call for novel interpretation of both case law and statutes and frequently lead to new laws and new nomenclature. Jacob Chansley aka the QAnon Shaman, hired attorney Albert Watkins. Watkins, like so many other lawyers attempting to defend the indefensible, is trying to argue the “public authority” defense, namely that Donald Trump made his client do it. That is flying about as well as “the Devil made me do it” — although we do grasp the similarities. Talking Points Memo:
“Legally, these are unprecedented cases,” Chansley’s attorney, Albert Watkins, told TPM last week. “And as a result, while the judge may not be compelled to emotionally embrace, as a matter of opinion, the effect or the impact of the words and actions of the former President as being a cause, there is going to necessarily be a legal compulsion to address that reality as part of an evaluation of culpability.”
This is an interesting angle because the idea that anybody who listens to Donald Trump is insane is actually a very reasonable argument. I’ve thought that way for years. Whether it provides legal exculpation for a crime is a whole different kettle of fish.
“It doesn’t matter if they were answering his call in terms of their own guilt or innocence,” said Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general, referring to Trump. “The law doesn’t recognize it as an excuse. Whatever brought them there, whatever they were spurred on to do, social media postings or whatever, they’re equally guilty under the federal statutes.”
Fancy that, the very special people don’t get to walk. And there is no question but that they are indeed very special people. Ask Mr. Watkins.
Watkins, the “Q Shaman” Jacob Chansley’s attorney, said his client had Asperger’s syndrome and indicated that Chansley’s mental state — and the impact of Trump’s “propaganda” efforts — would play a role in his case.
“A lot of these defendants — and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully — but they’re all fucking short-bus people,” Watkins told TPM. “These are people with brain damage, they’re fucking retarded, they’re on the goddamn 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. Fuck, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since fucking Hitler.”
I like this man. I was all prepared to think he was a scumbag defender of scumbags, but no, I really am starting to like this guy a lot. His worldview matches mine.
And along with recognized learning disabilities, don’t forget the newest malady on the block: Foxitis. That’s another version of the Devil made me do it, as well.
One particularly remorseful defendant, Anthony Antonio, was sick with a novel disease, “Foxitis,” when he entered the Capitol through a broken window on Jan. 6, his attorney Joe Hurley argued during an initial appearance earlier this month.
For months, stuck home due to the pandemic, he watched endless hours of the cable television station and eventually came to accept Trump’s bogus claims of a stolen election, Hurley told TPM.
Antonio is currently out of detention. In an interview, Hurley said the “Foxitis” claim wasn’t a defense in itself, but rather crucial context — an explanation of why his client marched to the Capitol in the first place.
“I want to separate him out from that herd of thugs that belong behind bars to set an example for the rest of the thugs that are out there,” Hurley said.
The “Foxitis” remark, he said later, “is not a defense — it’s pointing the finger of accusation where it belongs: to the slithery snake.”
If you’re enough of an adult to be allowed the privilege to vote, you should be enough of an adult to take responsibility for your own actions. The transcripts of these cases are going to be some fascinating reading.