Transgender Army vet and Oath Keepers member is sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for storming the Capitol in January 6 riot
- Jessica Watkins, of Woodstock, Ohio, was convicted of obstruction and conspiracy to impede Congress ‘ certification of President Joe Biden’s victory
- US District Judge Amit Mehta told Watkins that though she was not the leader, ‘Your role was more aggressive, more assaultive, more purposeful than others’
- Watkins broke down in tears as she apologized to the judge and described herself as ‘just another idiot running around the Capitol’ on January 6, 2021
A transgender Army veteran and Oath Keeper has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years for storming the Capitol in the January 6 riot.
Jessica Watkins, of Woodstock, Ohio, broke down in tears as the judge told her she had played an ‘aggressive’ role in the deadly siege. She was found guilty in November of obstruction and conspiracy to impede Congress.
US District Judge Amit Mehta said that while Watkins was not the leader of the Oath Keepers’ mob – she was not ‘just foot soldier,’ and recruited at least three others charged in the riot.
‘Your role that day was more aggressive, more assaultive, more purposeful than perhaps others,’ Mehta told her on Friday.
Watkins was jailed the day after the Oath Keepers founder and leader Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years for seditious conspiracy – the longest term for a January 6 rioter.
Mehta said it was ‘particularly hard’ to issue a sentence for Watkins after she testified during trial about the struggles she faced with her transgender identity and her cooperation with law enforcement officials.
But he said that ‘doesn’t wipe out’ what she did during the attack.
‘Your role that day was more aggressive, more assaultive, more purposeful than perhaps others,’ Mehta said.
Kenneth Harrelson, another Oath Keeper convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding, was also found guilty of conspiring to prevent members of Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election win as well as tampering with documents and proceedings. He will be sentenced later Friday.
Watkins and Harrelson were acquitted of seditious conspiracy charges.
Federal prosecutors had asked Mehta in Washington to sentence Watkins to 18 years in prison.
During tearful remarks in court, Watkins asked Mehta to issue a just sentence.
‘My actions and my behavior that fateful day were wrong and, as I now understand, criminal,’ she said.
She condemned the violence by rioters who assaulted police, but said she knows her presence at the Capitol ‘probably inspired those people to a degree.’ She described herself as ‘just another idiot running around the Capitol.’
‘And today you’re going to hold this idiot responsible,’ she told the judge.
During the nearly two-month trial in Washington’s federal court, lawyers for Watkins and the other Oath Keepers argued there was no plan to attack the Capitol.
On the witness stand, Watkins testified she never intended to interfere with the certification and never heard any commands for her and other Oath Keepers to enter the building.
Evidence shown to jurors showed Watkins after the 2020 election messaging with people who expressed interest in joining her Ohio militia group about ‘military-style basic’ training.
She told one recruit: ‘I need you fighting fit’ by the inauguration, which was January 20, 2021.
On January 6, Watkins and other Oath Keepers wearing helmets and other paramilitary gear were seen shouldering their way through the crowd and up the Capitol stairs in military-style ‘stack’ formation.
She communicated with others during the riot over a channel called ‘Stop the Steal J6’ on the walkie-talkie app Zello, declaring ‘we are in the main dome right now.’
Another Oath Keeper and fellow Army veteran – Kenneth Harrelson – will be sentenced later Friday. One of their other co-defendants, Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs, was sentenced Thursday to 12 years behind bars for seditious conspiracy and other charges.
Rhodes, 58, of Granbury, Texas, was the first January 6 defendant convicted of seditious conspiracy to receive his punishment for what prosecutors said was a weekslong plot to forcibly block the transfer of power from former President Donald Trump to Joe Biden. Four other Oath Keepers convicted of the sedition charge during a second trial in January will be sentenced next week.
During his sentencing Thursday, Rhodes defiantly claimed to be a ‘political prisoner,’ criticized prosecutors and the Biden administration and tried to play down his actions. The judge described Rhodes as a continued threat to the United States who clearly ‘wants democracy in this country to devolve into violence.’
Members of the Oath Keepers, founded by Rhodes in 2009, include current and retired U.S. military personnel, law enforcement officers and first responders. They have appeared, often heavily armed, at protests and political events including racial justice demonstrations that followed the 2020 murder in Minneapolis of a Black man named George Floyd by a white police officer.
Some of the Oath Keepers, includi