[1/3] Members of the Oath Keepers militia group, including Jessica Marie Watkins (Left), stand among supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protesting against the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, on the east front steps of the U.S. Capitol in…
WASHINGTON, May 26 – A member of the far-right Oath Keepers on Friday was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for her role in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump who tried to overturn his presidential election defeat.
Jessica Watkins was convicted in November by a federal jury in Washington of obstruction of an official proceeding for her role in the storming of the Capitol, which saw rioters battle police, smash windows and send lawmakers running for their lives.
Watkins was also convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of officers during the riots.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on Friday 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 during their investigation of her conduct on Jan. 6.
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.
Federal prosecutor Alexandra Hughes on Friday told Mehta that the actions of Watkins and other Oath Keepers on that day “were not an aberration” and that a significant sentence should be imposed.
Watkins’ lawyer asked that she be sentenced to five years in prison.
Prosecutors are seeking a 15-year sentence for Harrelson. Harrelson and his lawyers have not suggested a sentence and he maintains his innocence.
Friday’s court proceedings are taking place one day after Mehta sentenced Oath Keepers’ founder Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in prison for crimes including seditious conspiracy, or using force to try to overthrow the federal government. That is the steepest penalty yet against those charged in the Jan. 6 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, including Watkins and Harrelson, breached the Capitol clad in paramilitary gear. Others at a suburban hotel staged a “quick reaction force” prosecutors said was equipped with firearms that could be quickly transported into Washington.
Four other Oath Keepers members convicted of seditious conspiracy in a second trial are due to be sentenced next week.
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Jacqueline Thomsen, based in Washington, D.C., covers legal news related to policy, the courts and the legal profession. Follow her on Twitter at @jacq_thomsen and email her at [email protected].
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