Jessica Watkins: Oath Keepers member and army veteran sentenced to 8.5 years in prison for Jan 6
Jessica Watkins, an army veteran and member of the far-right Oath Keepers, was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison on Friday for participating in a plot to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election that resulted in to the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States. Capitol.
Judge Amit Mehta called Watkins’ efforts on Capitol Hill “aggressive” and said she had no immediate remorse, although she has since apologized.
“Your role that day was more aggressive, more aggressive, more determined than perhaps others. And you led others to achieve your goals,” Mehta said. “And there was no immediate shame or contrition, quite the contrary. Your comments were celebratory and lacked any real sense of the seriousness of this day and your role in it.
At trial, prosecutors showed evidence that Watkins founded and led a small militia in Ohio and mobilized his group in coordination with the Oath Keepers in Washington, DC, on January 6. Watkins and his counterparts eventually marched in tactical gear toward the Capitol and encouraged other rioters to push back the police outside the Senate Chamber.
“I was just another idiot running down the hall,” Watkins told the court before sentencing on Friday. “But idiots are responsible, and today you are going to hold that idiot responsible.”
Two of Watkins’ co-defendants, Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, were sentenced Thursday to 18 and 12 years in prison, respectively, for seditious conspiracy.
Unlike Rhodes and Meggs, Watkins was acquitted of the main charge of seditious conspiracy, but found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct official process – which carries the same maximum prison sentence of 20 years as seditious conspiracy – as well as d other counts.
“Nobody would suggest you’re Stewart Rhodes, and I don’t think you’re Kelly Meggs,” Mehta told Watkins on Friday. “But your role in these events is more than that of a mere infantryman. I think you can appreciate that.
Watkins, who is transgender, gave moving testimony during the trial about struggling with her identity in the military while the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy was still in effect, and about being drawn into the belly of conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election.
She tearfully reiterated to the judge on Friday that she was “very fearful and paranoid” at the time, and that while “for a long time I denied my own guilt” she “can now see my actions for what they were”. – they got it wrong and I’m sorry.
“I now understand that my presence in and around the Capitol that day probably inspired those people to some degree,” Watkins said. “They saw us there and it probably fired them up. The oath keepers are here, and they were patting us on the back.
She continued, “How many people got in because of us? We are responsible for it.
Prosecutor Alexandra Hughes disagreed, telling Mehta that Watkins had no remorse.
Hughes cited a January phone call from jail, in which Watkins allegedly said of Capitol officers “boo hoo poor little cops, I got a little PTSD, waaaa, I had to stand there and hold a open door for people waaaaaa.”
“It is perhaps an unsurprising fact of human nature that those who are victims of injustice sometimes bring injustice upon others,” Hughes said. “We don’t dispute what she went through, but what she did that day has profound and devastating – devastating – effects on people who showed up for work that day and never nothing done to Jessica Watkins.”
Before passing sentence, Mehta addressed Watkins’ traumatic story directly, saying “I don’t think you would have a human… who heard your testimony and wasn’t moved.”
“Your story itself shows a lot of courage and resilience,” Mehta said. “You have overcome a lot and you need to be seen as someone who can truly be a role model for other people on this journey. And I say this at a time when trans people in our country are so often vilified and used for political purposes.
The judge added: “It makes it all the more difficult for me to understand the lack of empathy for those who suffered that day.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.