NOTE: This story contains offensive language. Please read at your own discretion.
A defence lawyer for the so-called “QAnon Shaman” has refused to apologize for describing the U.S. Capitol rioters as “people with brain damage,” in an expletive-filled tirade that blamed former president Donald Trump for leading them astray.
Attorney Albert Watkins blasted his own client, Jacob Chansley, and the others who were at the Capitol in a Talking Points Memo article on Tuesday. Watkins argued that Trump had duped his client and others into joining the attack with a constant stream of lies, including his false claims about election fraud.
He also suggested that Chansley and the other rioters were vulnerable to Trump’s falsehoods because of alleged mental disabilities.
“A lot of these defendants … they’re all f—ing short-bus people,” Watkins said. “These are people with brain damage. They’re f—ing r—–ed, they’re on the goddamn spectrum.”
Watkins went on to say that the rioters weren’t “bad people,” but that they had been brainwashed by Trump’s propaganda, “the likes of which the world has not seen since f—ing Hitler.”
Trump spent several months trying to cast doubt on the election ahead of the official date last year, and baselessly claimed that the election had been stolen after he lost. He was still pushing that falsehood in a speech to a crowd of his faithful supporters ahead of the riot on Jan. 6, even after losing more than 60 election-related cases in court.
Trump told his supporters to “fight like hell” against the election result, and they immediately marched on the Capitol to interrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Five people were killed in the riot and over 400 people now face criminal charges.
The mob included far-right extremists, white supremacists, believers in the QAnon hoax and people from many different walks of life.
Watkins’ client, Chansley, was photographed at the head of the mob, where he stood out in a horned helmet, tattoos and furs. He faces two felony and four misdemeanour charges in connection with entering the Capitol, and has been in custody ever since.
Chansley had previously attended several Trump rallies, and was an outspoken supporter of QAnon, the conspiracy theory that imagines Trump as a warrior for God against a cabal of Satanic cannibal pedophiles.
Chansley has made headlines on several occasions since his arrest. He went on a hunger strike until he was given organic food in jail, and a judge later rebuked him for claiming in court that he was merely a peaceful presence at the riot.
“He believes that he — not the American people or members of Congress — was the victim on Jan. 6,” the judge said at the time.
She also scolded Chansley for using time with his lawyer to conduct an interview with CBS. Chansley claimed in that interview that he heroically stopped a rioter from stealing a muffin from the Capitol break room.
Watkins has also argued that Chansley did not act violently and was not a leader in the riot.
On Wednesday, Watkins refused to apologize for his offensive descriptions of the rioters, citing the attention he’s received since resorting to such language.
“My long-standing pleas for compassion and understanding of those involved in the events of January 6 with mental health issues and disabilities have to date fallen on deaf ears,” Watkins told Insider.
“One charged, insensitive, and vulgar statement was all that was required to garner the needed attention to this important aspect of the January 6 defendants.”
Watkins also refused to apologize for using the “R-word” in an interview with CNN’s New Day on Wednesday.
“For five months, I acted professionally, I talked to the people that needed to know, I made sure that the Department of Justice had the opportunity firsthand to meet with my client … to have them understand and appreciate the condition, the special needs of my client,” he said.
“All I had to do was get vulgar, get vulgar in a short soundbite-driven quote that permitted this very issue to come to the fore.”
Watkins also specifically highlighted Trump’s speech to his supporters from Jan. 6, in which the then-president vowed to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” with his supporters.
“Why would you say that and not go down with them?” Watkins said. “What the hell did you mean?”
Watkins has repeatedly blamed Trump for the riot in court documents, and has suggested that Chansley would not have been at the Capitol “but for the actions and the words of the president.”
Watkins’ remarks triggered a flurry of anger from advocates and members of the autism community, as well as others with mental disabilities.
“Being autistic is NOT an excuse for what the so called QAnon Shaman did,” writer Meredith Silverman, who identifies as autistic, wrote on Twitter.
“Autistic people are not damaged. We are not criminals,” writer Matthew Rozsa, who also has autism, wrote in Salon. “The QAnon Shaman does not get to use my neurological difference as his shield.”