A transgender woman who is part of an anti-government extremist organization and who allegedly participated in the January 6 MAGA riots at the Capitol is asking to be let out of prison because she fears for her safety.
Jessica Watkins, 38, told the court that she isn’t a threat and could go home with a monitoring device. She said that she was only at the Capitol because “she believed that the president of the United States was calling upon her.”
Watkins is facing charges in connection to her alleged participation in the riots. She is a member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia that the Southern Poverty Law Center says “is based on a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans.”
The organization is believed to be one of the largest extremists organizations in the U.S. and the Anti-Defamation League said they are “heavily armed extremists with a conspiratorial and anti-government mindset looking for potential showdowns with the government.”
Watkins served in Afghanistan as an Army ranger and her attorney said that she was forced out of the military “after her sexual orientation was discovered.” She now runs the Jolly Roger bar in Woodstock, Ohio.
On January 17, she turned herself into police, almost two weeks after the riots. Law enforcement authorities believe that she wore “full tactical gear” and joined a line of Oath Keepers who pushed their way into the Capitol.
“Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today,” she allegedly wrote on Parler, a social media app for rightwingers. “Teargassed, the whole 9. Pushed our way into the Rotunda. Made it into the Senate even. The news is lying (even Fox) about the Historical Events we created today.”
They also say that she texted people invitations to an Oath Keepers training event on November 9 – shortly after Donald Trump lost the election to Joe Biden – saying, “I need you fighting fit by innaugeration [sic].”
She is facing some of the most serious charges stemming from the riots because prosecutors believe the Oath Keepers engaged in a conspiracy to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, unlike some of the other rioters who were less organized and didn’t plan in advance for the events of that day.
As a dues-paying member of the Oath Keepers, Buzzfeed News reports, prosecutors believe that Watkins “was thus not an ancillary player who became swept up in the moment, but a key figure who put into motion the violence that overwhelmed the Capitol” and that she “formed a subset of the most extreme insurgents that plotted then tried to execute a sophisticated plan to forcibly stop the results of a Presidential Election from taking effect.”
Watkins’s attorney said that her actions were “misguided” and that she “did not vandalize anything… or engage in any destruction of property, and in fact, encouraged others not to vandalize.” The lawyer said that Watkins even turned herself in.
Watkins said that her time in a county jail in Ohio has been humiliating. She says she had an arm injury in prison and was refused medical care, so she went on a hunger strike. In retaliation, she was allegedly stripped and left “in a cell with lights on 24 hours a day for 4 days in full view of everyone.”
“She believed she was supporting the Constitution and her government by providing security services at the rally organized by Mr. Trump and the Republican lawmakers who supported his goals,” her petition to leave jail until trial read.
She is not the only out LGBTQ person to have allegedly participated in the violence that day. Outspoken gay Republican Brandon Straka who founded the “Walk Away” movement was tweeting from the Capitol and was arrested several weeks later.
Gay hairdresser and podcaster Kristopher Dreww proudly admitted to being at the Capitol that day before he later told local media that he feared for his life and his job.
And self-proclaimed ex-gay and ex-transgender GOP operative Kevin Whitt lost his job with the Texas Republican Party after social media posts showed that he was at the Capitol as well.