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Horn helmet-wearing, painted face Capitol rioter should remain in custody: DOJ

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DanHenson1/iStockBy ALEXANDER MALLIN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Jacob Chansley, the horned helmet-wearing, painted face Capitol rioter is set for a detention hearing this afternoon in Arizona federal court, and prosecutors are requesting a judge keep him in government custody pending trial — using some of their bluntest words yet in court to describe last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol as a “violent insurrection.”

“Chansley is an active participant in — and has made himself the most prominent symbol of — a violent insurrection that attempted to overthrow the United States Government on January 6, 2021,” prosecutors wrote in a brief to the judge. “Chansley has expressed interest in returning to Washington, D.C. for President-Elect Biden’s inauguration and has the ability to do so if the Court releases him. No conditions can reasonably assure his appearance as required, nor ensure the safety of the community.”

Chansley is the rioter seen roaming through the halls of Congress last week wearing horns, a coyote tail headdress, face paint and a wielding a 6-foot spear.

Prosecutors describe Chansley as both a clear flight risk and a mentally unstable individual, partly due to his leadership in the QAnon movement — which they bluntly describe in the brief as a “dangerous extremist group.”

“Chansley has also previously espoused identifying and then “hanging” “traitors” within the United States government,” prosecutors say. “Despite the riot on January 6, Chansley has stated his intent to return to Washington for President-Elect Biden’s inauguration, and his repeated and demonstrated unwillingness to conform to societal rules suggests a pending criminal case will not stop him.”

The brief also notes that Chansley’s employment status contributes to his flight risk — citing his ability to “sporadically” earn money by showing up at protests and riots with other QAnon followers around the country.

“Chansley is a high-profile leader and the self-professed shaman of QAnon, giving him the ability to raise large sums of money for travel (and other activities) quickly through non-traditional means,” the brief says.

Prosecutors also point to recent reports of possible violence at the Capitol leading up to the inauguration, and note that in his interview with the FBI before his arrest, Chansley told agents he’d “still go, you better believe it.”

“U.S. Capitol Police report that Chansley was among the first inside the Capitol,” the brief says. “He made his way into the halls of the Senate and the Senate Chamber within minutes of the rioters breaching the building. At this juncture in our Nation’s history, it is hard to imagine a greater risk to our democracy and community than the armed revolution of which Chansley has made himself the symbol.”

“He loved Trump, every word. He listened to him. He felt like he was answering the call of our president,” Chansley’s attorney Al Watkins told CNN in an interview Thursday. “My client wasn’t violent. He didn’t cross over any police lines. He didn’t assault anyone.” Watkins said Chansley also hopes for a presidential pardon.

During his court appearance on Jan. 11, Chansley’s court-appointed attorney, Gerald Williams, told the judge that Chansley has been unable to eat since he was arrested, The Associated Press reported. He said his client has a restricted diet, though it was unclear to Williams whether Chansley’s food issues were related to health concerns or religious reasons.

The judge ordered Williams to work with the U.S. Marshals Service to address the issue.

Chansley’s mother, Martha Chansley, told reporters outside the courthouse that her son needs an organic diet, The Arizona Republic reported.

“He gets very sick if he doesn’t eat organic food,” she said. “He needs to eat.”

So far, approximately 80 cases have been charged in federal court and 34 people have been arrested in connection with the attack, the Department of Justice said Thursday. Additionally, the FBI has opened approximately 200 subject case files and received roughly 140,000 digital media tips from the public.

Chansley’s detention hearing before Magistrate Judge Deborah Fine is set for Friday 4:30 p.m. ET via teleconference.

ABC News’ Ivan Pereira and Meredith Ferrell contributed to this report.

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