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Transgender Capitol rioter sentenced to 8.5 years in prison after attempt to storm the Senate

Jessica Watkins
Jessica Watkins Photo: Booking photo

A transgender Army veteran who helped recruit people for the January 6, 2021 Capitol Insurrection and organize the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential elections has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.

“Your role that day was more aggressive, more assaultive, more purposeful than perhaps others’. And you led others to fulfill your purposes,” Judge Amit Mehta told Jessica Watkins, a member of the far-right militia Oath Keepers, this past Friday. “And there was not in the immediate aftermath any sense of shame or contrition, just the opposite. Your comments were celebratory and lacked a real sense of the gravity of that day and your role in it.”

He acknowledged that she did eventually apologize for her role in the attacks that led to five deaths.

Watkins downplayed her role in the Capitol Insurrection.

“I was just another idiot running around the hallway,” she said before sentencing. “But idiots are responsible, and today you are going to hold this idiot responsible.”

But that is not how prosecutors saw her role in the attacks.

The Oath Keepers, to whom Watkins was a dues-paying member, is “based on a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Prosecutors working on Capitol Insurrection cases have been separating suspects into several levels of guilt, with those who were “swept up in the moment” in D.C. that day facing the lightest charges.

But prosecutors believe that the 11 Oath Keepers were more serious in their attempt to overthrow the government. Shortly after the November 2020 elections that Donald Trump lost and President Joe Biden won, Watkins texted invitations to training for people she called “recruits,” saying, “I need you fighting fit by innaugeration [sic].”

In December 2020, Watkins texted another member of the group: “We plan on going to DC on the 6th” and used the messaging app Signal to assign roles to a small group on January 2, 2021. This was while Oath Keeper leader Stewart Rhodes and the Oath Keepers were stocking up on thousands of dollars worth of weapons and gear in preparation for the attack and promising their members a “bloody, massively bloody revolution.”

On January 3, Watkins allegedly told another member of the group that “weapons are ok now as well. Sorry for the confusion.” She also told that person to wear khaki or tan pants.

On the day of the insurrection, Watkins allegedly was part of the group of Oath Keepers going to the Senate – where Mike Pence was presiding over that chamber receiving the results of the election from the states – and prosecutors said that others in the group called her “captain” and “cap.”

“Y’all, we’re one block away from the Capitol right now. I’m probably gonna go silent when we get there, because I’m gonna be a little busy,” she allegedly said in a channel on the walkie-talkie app Zello.

She and her group allegedly forced their way through the doors of the Capitol. Despite her worry that she would “go silent,” she kept talking on Zello, saying where she was in the Capitol.

“Get it, Jess. Do your f**king thing. This is what we f**king [unintelligible] up for. Everything we f**king trained for,” someone responded to her.

She and her group made their way to the Senate. Watkins allegedly told people in the crowd around her to “Push, push, push” and “Get in there, get in there” as the mob tried to get past a line of law enforcement officers.

“They can’t hold us!” Watkins allegedly said.

Officers then used a chemical spray on the mob, and they retreated. Watkins and her fellow Oath Keepers left the Capitol.

“Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today,” she allegedly wrote on Parler that day. Parler is a social media app for conservatives. “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.”

Several days later, Watkins messaged someone on Facebook: “We’ve been organizing a bugout plan if the usurper is installed… Something like 20+ Oathkeepers going to Kentucky mountains on hundreds of acres apparently.”

Rhodes and Kelly Meggs – Watkins’ co-defendants – were found guilty of seditious conspiracy and were sentenced to 18 and 12 years in prison, respectively. Watkins was acquitted on that top charge but still found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and other felonies.

“Nobody would suggest you are Stewart Rhodes, and I don’t think you are Kelly Meggs,” Mehta said. “But your role in those events is more than that of just a foot soldier. I think you can appreciate that.”

At trial, Watkins talked about serving in the military in the early 2000’s under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. She said her parents rejected her because she’s trans early in life and that she later went AWOL from the Army with an “other than honorable” discharge after a fellow service member discovered her trans identity when borrowing her laptop.

The service member reportedly told her, “I know who you are, fa***t,” Law & Crime reported. She called Capitol Police officers “fa***ts” while storming the building. “I think it was lashing out at others the way I’ve been lashed out at,” she told the court.

She moved to Ohio where she owned a bar and said that she started watching far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s Infowars for four to five hours each day.

“I think I was gullible,” she testified.

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