Ohio Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins Denied Bail In Capitol Riot Case
Jessica Watkins, a central Ohioan who participated in the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, will remain in jail until her trial.
The Washington, D.C. federal district court judge’s decision to hold Watkins, despite the pretrial release of other alleged participants in the riot, focused on her leadership role in an antigovernment militia.
“I don’t think putting you on home detention would ensure the safety of the community,” Judge Amit Mehta said to Watkins near the end of Friday’s hearing. “You were an active participant, organizer, leader of others engaging in this kind of conduct.”
Watkins faces charges including conspiracy, entering a restricted building or grounds, destruction of government property and obstruction of an official proceeding.
There’s no evidence that Watkins assaulted any police officers or directly damaged or stole any property inside the Capitol on January 6. The judge said she is not considered a flight risk. Watkins turned herself in when she learned the FBI was looking for her. She served in the military and had no prior record.
But the government presented a series of texts, videos and other communications that they argued demonstrated the risk Watkins posed.
In denying Watkins’ release, Mehta cited evidence of Watkins’ connections to the founder of the antigovernment Oath Keepers militia, Stewart Rhodes, who has called on militia members to prepare for further civil conflict.
“And so the leader of the very militia that Miss Watkins has associated with is now instructing the militia members to disobey government orders and, if necessary, to take up arms to defend their rights,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ahmed Baset said.
Watkins told the judge she will disband her militia, the Ohio State Regular Militia, and end her membership in the Oath Keepers.
The judge also cited her role in the recruitment and training of participants in the storming of the Capitol, saying Watkins had recruited two participants and her communications during the riot indicated she had planned and trained for the events that day.
Most concerning, said Judge Mehta, were her communications regarding groups of heavily armed former military members stationed outside Washington, D.C., on January 6 waiting for the call to come into the city, referred to as “quick reaction forces.”
Mehta asked Baset whether the government had any proof these groups existed on January 6. He would only say, “That is our working understanding.”
Mehta then moved into a private call with the attorneys to find out whether there was any proof that these “quick reaction forces” existed, with the government indicating there was an open investigation.
Donovan Crowl and Edward Caldwell, who were arrested along with Watkins for their roles on January 6, are also being held until trial.