“These are people with brain damage,” Watkins said.
He went on to say that the alleged rioters deserved empathy, arguing they’re not “bad people.” Their actions came, he said, after they were subjected to what he described as “propaganda” not seen since Adolf Hitler.
Chansley, a 33-year-old, self-described shaman and QAnon digital warrior from Phoenix, quickly emerged as one of the most recognizable faces from the attack on the Capitol. Shirtless and tattooed, he wore horns and red-white-and-blue face paint while roaming the center of U.S. democracy. In his hands was a spear draped with an American flag.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth rejected those arguments, blasting them as “meritless,” “mistaken” and “so frivolous as to insult the Court’s intelligence.” He ordered that Chansley remain jailed until trial. The alleged rioter has remained in the news, at one point covertly giving a “60 Minutes+” interview from behind bars.
Like his client, Watkins often grabs headlines. The St. Louis lawyer is described on his website as “beyond description,” as well as “self-centered, egotistical, and a self-proclaimed expert in all matters.” He has taken on multiple high-profile clients, including the couple who pointed guns at protesters outside their St. Louis mansion last summer.
In that case, he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the two were “melanin-deficient human beings” who are “completely respectful of the message Black Lives Matter needs to get out, especially to Whites.” The news outlet described him earlier this year as “known for defending his clients in the media, delivering streams of soundbites that can have an eyebrow-raising effect.”
Anchor John Berman opened the interview by asking Watkins whether he wanted to apologize for his offensive words. The lawyer was quick to respond “No.”
In a tense back-and-forth, Watkins argued it took vulgarity to get the public to pay attention to mistreatment of his client. Chansley has special needs, he said, adding that by placing him in solitary confinement, the government is “running a gulag.” He added that his other attempts to draw attention to the issue have failed.
“If the only way to get you and everyone else to understand that you’re as accountable as I am and everybody else is about permitting this to occur in our nation, then I’ll do it,” Watkins said. “I’ll do it all day long. Vulgarity gets and drives your sound bites — and I’m here to exploit it.”