A leader of the extremist Oath Keepers was sentenced Friday to 8 1/2 years in prison for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, a day after the far right-wing group’s top leader got 18 years for orchestrating the attack.
Jessica Watkins, an Army veteran from Ohio, tearfully pleaded in vain for leniency after she was convicted of obstruction and conspiracy to impede Congress’ certification of President Biden’s victory and the peaceful transfer of power.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta told Watkins she was much more than “just a foot soldier,” noting that she recruited other attackers to join the white nationalist group and participate in the violent attack.
“Your role that day was more aggressive, more assaultive, more purposeful than perhaps others,” Mehta told her.
Watkins tearfully apologized for her actions and claimed she does not support the violence of rioters who attacked police and tried to hunt down perceived enemies of former President Donald Trump.
During the nearly two-month trial in Washington’s federal court, Watkins and fellow Oath Keepers leaders improbably argued there was no plan to attack the Capitol, claims that prosecutors refuted in meticulous detail.
Watkins testified she never intended to interfere with Congress’ work and never heard any commands to enter the building.
She also seemed to dramatically understate the role of organized extremists in the attack, describing herself as “just another idiot running around the Capitol.”
“And today you’re going to hold this idiot responsible,” she told the judge in a failed bid for a lighter sentence.
Watkins, who was cleared of seditious conspiracy, is the third member of the anti-government group to receive her punishment this week in one of the most serious cases the Justice Department has brought in the riot.
The 18-year term handed out to Oath Keepers honcho Stewart Rhodes is the longest sentence that has been handed down so far in the hundreds of Capitol riot cases. Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs got 12 years.
More leaders of the far-right group will hear their fate next week.