Who is Heather Shaner? DC attorney offers to reeducate Capitol rioters on history
The criminal defense lawyer has chosen to offer more than her legal services, helping accused rioters with 'life changing' education on history
As sentencing begins for many of those accused in the January 6 insurrection, some of them have notably claimed they have "changed". This isn't a random plea, but the work of their criminal defense lawyer, who is offering more than her legal services. Heather Shaner has made news for her efforts to help the insurrectionists change their understanding of US history, and help them see the errors of their actions.
The controversial insurrection has led to the arrest of over 500 people, with others still being rounded up. We've covered the arrest of many of them, like Robert Moss who was arrested on July 6 with a notebook featuring steps on creating a militia. Others though have been discovered thanks to their family. Gary Edwards from Pennsylvania was arrested after his wife bragged about his presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Likewise, Jennifer Ruth Parks from Kansas was picked up by the FBI after her daughter's text message was sent to the bureau.
Many of these people have chosen to plead guilty, and some are still unapologetic for their actions that day. However, a few appear to have genuinely felt remorse for what they did, which can be credited to Shaner's efforts. Here's everything we know about Shaner, and how she is helping change those who participated in the insurrection.
Who is Heather Shaner?
An experienced lawyer whose career goes back decades, Shaner's case records date all the way back to 1990. Apart from working as a criminal defense lawyer in Washington DC, Shaner also serves as an occasional guest teacher at her granddaughter's school. "I’m allowed to say what the teachers aren’t, because I’m not an employee," she told Huffington Post in June. Beyond that, little else is known about Shaner.
She doesn't appear to have a presence on social media. A profile on Lawyer Legion says she was licensed by the District of Columbia bar in 1979, over 40 years ago. The work with the rioters isn't the first time Shaner is helping criminals clean up their acts. We found a 2013 story where Shaner represented a drug dealer. She was successfully able to get the dealer's early parole release, against the recommendations of the Justice Department. Shaner was also one of the several lawyers to publicly criticize the Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA) practice of hiding tips that lead to drug investigations.
Those stories are just one of the very few about Shaner, who despite decades of experience, has remained mostly out of the media spotlight. Now though, she is making waves for her re-education efforts that have helped some avoid long prison sentences.
'Education is a powerful tool'
First reported by Huffington Post, Shaner created the remedial program to help educate rioters about history they might have missed out on. She told Huff Post many of her clients were poorly educated and did not know much about the US. "They’re a captured audience, and it’s life-changing for a lot of them," she said. Shaner added, "I think that education is a very powerful tool ... So I gave them book lists and shows that they should watch."
Shaner has instructed her clients to watch films like 'Schindler's List', 'Just Mercy', and read books like 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee'. Documentaries like 'Burning Tulsa' and 'Slavery By Another Name' are also part of the extensive list. For some of Shaner's clients, like Anna Morgan-Lloyd and Annie Howell, the lists have proven to be valuable sources of information. For others, like Israel Tutrow, and Landon Kenneth Copeland, not so much.
In the case of people like Morgan-Lloyd, the efforts are worth it. The insurrection was her first offense, and thanks to Shaner, prosecutors recommended just three years of probation, $500 in restitution, and 40 hours of community service for Morgan-Lloyd. For others like Copeland, it is likely to have little effect. Nonetheless, Shaner hasn't given up on her efforts, hoping that it does provide some help. "What matters is Anna acknowledged both to herself and to the court that there was a lot to learn about her individual responsibility, and the relationship between a citizen's rights and a citizen's responsibility," she told CNN in a June interview.