The order came after a lawyer for defendant Jacob Chansley complained that his client had gone the past nine days without eating because organic food isn’t served at the Washington jail where he’s housed.
Chansley has lost 20 pounds since being transferred from Arizona to Washington last week, said his attorney, Albert Watkins. Chansley, who calls himself the “QAnon Shaman,” considers eating organic food to be part of his “shamanic belief system and way of life,” the lawyer said.
Three weeks ago, when he was jailed in Arizona on charges stemming from the Jan. 6. riot, Chansley went days without eating because the detention facility there didn’t offer organic food. The U.S. Marshals Service in Arizona said it “reached an appropriate course of action regarding the dietary needs of Jacob Chansley” but declined to say whether he had been given organic food.
In asking for organic food behind bars, Chansley made a religious liberty argument and said he has been following such a diet for eight years while practicing Shamanism.
In an order issued Wednesday evening, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said corrections officials have made dietary religious exemptions for inmates who are Muslim and Jewish and couldn’t cite an instance when they denied such a request based on a perceived lack of religious merit.
Lamberth said Chansley’s diet was based on his religious beliefs and that his willingness to go more than a week without food is strong evidence of the sincerity of those convictions.
Prosecutors said Chansley went into the Capitol carrying a U.S. flag attached to a wooden pole topped with a spear, ignored an officer’s commands to leave, went into the Senate chamber and wrote a threatening note to then-Vice President Mike Pence.
Chansley told investigators he came to the Capitol “at the request of the president that all ‘patriots’ come to D.C. on January 6,” according to court records.
Chansley’s bid for organic food isn’t the first unusual request made by people who were charged in the riot.
Lawyers for Jenny Cudd, a florist and former mayoral candidate in the oil patch city of Midland, Texas, asked a judge for permission to take a four-day trip to Mexico’s Caribbean coast for a “work-related bonding retreat” with her colleagues and their spouses. They said the trip was prepaid and planned before the Capitol riot.
Cudd’s pretrial services officer didn’t object to the trip and prosecutors took no position on it, defense attorney Farheena Siddiqui wrote in the court filing. The judge has yet to rule on her request. Her lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Associated Press writer Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this story.
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