Oath Keepers

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A judge denied release for Ohio Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins, who is charged for her alleged role in organizing the plot to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6, which prosecutors said involved stationing a “quick reaction force” of armed militiamen just outside of D.C.

What You Need To Know

  • Ohio Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins denied release by a judge for her alleged role in Capitol breach Jan. 6
  • Watkins recruited people to D.C. and was on “planning calls” in advance of the riot, D.C. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said
  • Watkins, through her attorney, has denied the allegations against her
  • Watkins’ lawyer unsuccessfully argued her client is at risk as a transgender female in jail

Watkins recruited people to D.C. and was on “planning calls” in advance of the riot, indicating she is high up in the hierarchy of the Oath Keepers, D.C. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said in his detention ruling at the end of a nearly three-hour hearing Friday.

“Ms. Watkins is not just a foot soldier if you will, but rather somebody who actually is involved in planning and organizing of larger groups of people,” Mehta said, mentioning messages in which she told “trainees” they needed to be “fighting fit” by the inauguration. 

“This is not the kind of conduct or the kind of offense that anybody should consider typical or ordinary,” Mehta said. “It was a historic event — an incursion on the Capitol that was a real threat to the very fabric of our democracy, and the truth of the matter is Ms. Watkins was not simply just a willing participant in that; she was, as I said, an organizer and a leader in those efforts.”

Watkins, through her attorney, has denied the allegations against her, arguing she breached the Capitol as a medic, not an insurrectionist.

On Friday, after formally entering a not guilty plea, Watkins gave a statement in her defense against the advice of the judge who noted it would be transcribed and potentially used against her.

Watkins said she is done with the militia lifestyle and will focus on her small business, a struggling bar in Woodstock.

“I did it out of the love of my country, but I think it’s time to let all of that go,” she said, adding that she feels “humiliated.” 

A former EMT, she said she became a militia member with the intent of providing search and rescue after tornadoes and “helping” law enforcement with civil unrest. She said she has been “appalled” by the recent conduct of other Oath Keepers and intends to cancel her membership as soon as she gets out. 

As the subject of several impeachment arguments, the transgender Afghanistan veteran is among the more prominent Capitol rioters facing charges. 

Watkins and numerous other ex-military and law enforcement militia members, who wore tactical gear in D.C. and moved in formations at the riots, have been charged with felonies, including conspiracy by the federal government.

Mehta said Watkins and other Oath Keepers discussed organizing a so-called quick response team for Jan. 6, which is “perhaps the most disturbing” evidence against Watkins and her co-defendants. 

In court proceedings against Watkins’ co-defendant Thomas Edward Caldwell, 66, of Virginia, prosecutors shared messages in which Caldwell discussed stationing a quick response team on the Virginia side of the Potomac River near the Pentagon with “heavy weapons standing by” so the militiamen if needed, could “quickly load them and ferry them across the river to our waiting arms.”

On Friday, Mehta asked the prosecutor who appeared in the Watkins case if the government has evidence that those plans were materialized.

The government said it is its “working assumption” that those plans were acted upon. The hearing was paused for more than 10 minutes while prosecutors privately discussed the evidence with Mehta.

A federal public defender representing Watkins argued her client’s rhetoric was indefensible, and Watkins acknowledged she made mistakes on Jan. 6. She said Watkins was brainwashed by the president and conservative media. 

Though the government has yet to provide evidence Watkins fought with law enforcement or smashed anything, she is charged with the destruction of property, and the judge said that qualifies as “a crime of violence,” meaning she can be held as she awaits detention.

Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins will remain in detention as the criminal conspiracy case against her moves forward. (Courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia)

Watkins’ attorney also said there has been inconsistency with how the government is prosecuting cases stemming from the Jan. 6 protests.

She said the government did not seek detention of multiple rioters who were physically violent.

But the government said Watkins appears to be proud of her membership in the Oath Keepers and argued she has shown no remorse.

Watkins’ lawyer unsuccessfully argued her client is at risk as a transgender female in jail.

Her attorney said Friday Watkins was more of a “consultant” to the Oath Keepers than a leader. She said Watkins isn’t denying she has a leadership role of the Ohio State Regular Militia, but Watkins plans to disband from that militia.

Watkins, who was charged with a group of eight other Oath Keeper militia members and alleged associates, shared her Jan. 6 experience in D.C. on Parler — a conservative-leaning social media app that has since been disabled.

In a video, Watkins joyfully celebrated storming the Capitol in the Rotunda.

“So these were the f—weed cops killing Patriots, and assaulting us when we WERE peaceful,” Watkins said in Parler comments after the riot, before the app went offline. “Our election was stolen, an offense that cannot and should not go unchallenged. Extreme times call for extreme measures.” 

During his questioning of Watkins’ attorney, Mehta inquired about a recipe for making a bomb from household items that was found when the FBI stormed her Woodstock home. Watkins resided with her boyfriend in a loft above the bar she owns. Mehta said on Tuesday prosecutors sent him the evidence — a copy of the instructions for making a bomb from household chemicals.

The judge said this evidence was of serious concern, but Watkins’ attorney responded noting that the recipe is from the 1970s, and she said the government has not detailed where the document was found. 

After Watkins’ home was raided, Spectrum News 1 exclusively — with permission — toured part of her home, including a large “foyer” room which was stacked with clutter. Montana Siniff, Watkins’ boyfriend, told Spectrum News the FBI found the bomb recipe on a table amid the clutter.

Mehta said the document was a significant concern.

“Maybe it’s a document that had been in her home for some time. Who knows, but nevertheless is indicative of her mindsets, and how she — let’s just put it this way: I think it’s indicative of things that she may have thought about it, if not more recently, then certainly once upon a time,” he said. 

Considering the weight of the evidence, Mehta said Watkins would be a danger to the community under any hypothetical conditions of release. 

“In terms of whether there are lesser conditions that would ensure the safety of the community, I’ve thought about this quite hard Ms. Watkins, and I think at the end of the day, I just can’t get there,” Mehta said.

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