'QAnon Shaman' rioter should be given organic food while in jail after going on hunger strike, federal judge says
Posted February 3, 2021 4:51 p.m. EST
CNN — US Capitol rioter and so-called "QAnon Shaman" Jacob Chansley should be given organic food while in a Washington, DC, jail, a federal judge said Wednesday, after Chansley went on an apparent hunger strike last week claiming non-organic food was against his religion and sickened him.
DC District Court Judge Royce Lamberth decided the accommodations could be made for Chansley because he had been fed organic food in detention in Arizona, and arguments about his adherence to Shamanism were enough to also convince the judge.
Chansley hasn't eaten since last Monday, his attorney said.
"My client made it clear that while he did not oppose fasting, he was not in position to put into his body things that shamanism believes to be impure... things that suck the life out of your body," Chansley's lawyer Al Watkins said in court Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier this month, a federal judge decided Chansley, the man seen in photos dressed in horns, fur headdress and face paint inside the US Capitol during the January 6 riot, would remain in jail as he awaits trial, after the Justice Department portrayed him as a particularly belligerent leader among the rioters.
Debate over access to organic meals
In court, a person representing the Washington jail said Wednesday said that it would be difficult to accommodate Chansley, because organic meals were not available through any contracted food providers to the jail. The jail had also found no research to show that an organic diet was a tenet of Shamanism.
The DC Jail had denied Chansley's request on Tuesday to eat only organic food, after he was moved to Washington, DC, to face his charges. The jail's general counsel Eric Glover found Chansley wasn't able to name a religious need for organic food, emails between the jail and Chansley's lawyers show.
Watkins has written in court and Chansley wrote to jail officials that he followed the Shaman religion for years, and that has shaped his belief that unnatural chemicals would be an intrusion into his body.
"For eight years, your honor, I have been eating only that food," Chansley said on a videoconference line from jail to the court Wednesday. He explained organic food labeling to the judge, then spoke about a "very delicate chemical balance in my body that affects my serotonin ... my appetite, my mood."
Watkins has separately admitted in court filings and in emails to CNN that Chansley wants organic food in prison because he gets gastrointestinal distress from eating non-organic food that may have preservatives in it.
When Watkins tried to raise the organic food issue with Judge Lamberth in court last week, the judge told him to discuss with the jail directly.
Watkins didn't push for Chansley's release from jail at the hearing Wednesday, though he had asked for it as part of a "motion for sustenance." The Justice Department countered that Chansley, who has a following online, should stay detained.
Last month, a federal judge in Arizona ordered Chansley to stay in jail because he "intended his actions to stop the process for the peaceful transition of power" on January 6, was a danger to the community, could easily flee because he's virtually unrecognizable without his animal-fur headdress costume and because the judge did not believe he would follow the court's orders for him to face his charges.