Jessica Watkins, an army veteran and member of the far-right Oath Guards, was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison on Friday for her role in a conspiracy to sabotage the certification of the 2020 presidential election, culminating in an attack on the United States on January 6, 2021. Capital.
Judge Amit Mehta He said Watkins’ efforts at the Capitol were “aggressive” and, while he apologized, was not immediately remorseful.
“Your role that day was more aggressive than others, more offensive, more purposeful. You led others to accomplish your goals,” Mehta said. “And there was no shame or regret in the immediate aftermath, quite the opposite. Your comments were celebratory and lacked a real sense of the gravity of the day and your role in it.
At trial, Watkins presented evidence that he had established and led a small militia in Ohio and assembled his group on January 6 to Washington, D.C., in coordination with the Pledge of Allegiance. The rioters pushed the police out of the Senate chamber.
“I’m just another idiot running around in the hallway,” Watkins told the court before he was sentenced Friday. “But fools are responsible, and today you are going to hold this fool accountable.”
Watkins’ two codefendants, Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meeks Sentenced Thursday to 18 and 12 years in prison for conspiracy to commit sedition.
Painting by Bill Hennessy
Video of Jessica Watkins shown in federal court during the 2022 trial of members of the Oath Keepers.
Unlike Rhodes and Meggs, Watkins was acquitted of the high-level charge of treasonous conspiracy, but charged with conspiracy to obstruct official action — which carries the same 20-year maximum sentence as treasonous conspiracy — as well as other crimes.
“Nobody would suggest you’re Stewart Rhodes, I don’t think you’re Kelly Meeks,” Mehta told Watkins on Friday. “But your part in those events was more than a foot soldier. I think you can appreciate that.”
Watkins, who is transgender, gave emotional testimony during the trial about struggling with his identity in the military and being dragged into the underbelly of conspiracy theories when the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was still in place. 2020 Presidential Election.
She tearfully reiterated to the judge on Friday that she was “very scared and paranoid” at the time and that “for a long time I denied my own guilt,” and now “can see my actions for what they were. They were wrong, and I’m sorry.”
“I realize now that my presence in and around the Capitol that day inspired those people to a degree,” Watkins said. “They saw us there and it could have shot them. The truth guards were here and they were patting us on the back.
She continued: “How many people did we get in? We are responsible for that.”
Prosecutor Alexandra Hughes disagreed, telling Mehta that Watkins was not remorseful.
Hughes cited a phone call from jail in January in which Watkins allegedly said of officers at the Capitol, “Boo hoo, poor little police officers, got some PTSD, waaaaay, I gotta stand there and open a door for people.”
“It is an unsurprising fact of human nature that those who have been wronged sometimes bring injustice to others,” Hughes said. “We’re not denying what she did, but what she did that day had a profound and devastating — devastating — impact on the people who went to work that day and did nothing for Jessica Watkins.”
Before handing down the sentence, Mehta directly addressed Watkins’ traumatic history, saying, “I don’t think you have a man … who will not be moved by your testimony.”
“Your story shows great courage and resilience,” Mehta said. “You have achieved so much and you should be someone who can be a role model for others on that journey. I say this at a time when people with disabilities are often vilified and used for political purposes in our country.
The judge added: “I find it very difficult to understand the lack of sympathy for the victims that day.”
US Department of Justice
Surveillance footage shows Kenneth Harrelson in the hallway of the Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia on January 7, 2021.
Kenneth Harrelson, the sworn police officer from Florida who chanted “treason” inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, was sentenced Friday to four years in prison for his role in the broader conspiracy.
Prosecutors allege that Harrelson was appointed “ground team leader” of the Oath Guards on Jan. 6, stashed weapons in the so-called Rapid Reaction Force outside Washington, D.C., and marched through the Capitol chanting “treason.”
Addressing the judge before his sentencing, Harrelson said he had “neither then nor now any gripe with the government” and was “in the wrong car at the wrong time, in the wrong place with the wrong people.”
“I don’t have a clue,” Harrelson said. “That’s not to say I didn’t have signs or warnings I should have paid attention to, but it just didn’t register.”
He continued, at times weeping, supporting his body by placing a lectern inside the well of the court: “I don’t know why. I have ruined my life and I am fully responsible for it.”
This story has been updated with additional updates.