Who is Jessica Watkins - Oath Keepers Leader: Bio, Capitol Riot Arrest, Court Fillings
Jessica Watkins (©Montgomery County Jail)

Who is Jessica Watkins?

Jessica Marie Watkins, 38, is a white transgender woman from Ohio, United States. In 2001, she graduated from high school and joined the U.S. Army. She completed airborne training before being deployed to Afghanistan.

From 2010 to 2014, she worked for the Stoney Point Fire Department in Fayetteville, Cumberland County, North Carolina, USA. She started as a volunteer before becoming a full-time firefighter and emergency medical technician.

She met her longtime boyfriend Montana Siniff playing “Magic: The Gathering” in a card shop in Hilliard, Franklin County, Ohio. In 2018, they bought a bar in Woodstock and moved into the apartment upstairs.

Jessica Watkins’ timelines of joining Oath Keepers and the arrest

She is a member of the Oath Keepers. She is also the commanding officer of the Ohio State Regular Militia, which she formed in 2019 after a string of tornadoes ripped through Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio. In the same year, she and Siniff started running their newly purchased bar in Woodstock.

In 2020, she renamed her bar in Woodstock as the Jolly Roger and regularly watched videos on Infowars, the far-right conspiracy-driven website run by Alex Jones, according to Siniff. In the same year, answering a nationwide call from Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, Ohio State Regular Militia members patrolled Louisville, Kentucky, USA amid protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

Days after Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden in November 2020, Siniff accompanied her as they answered a call from the Oath Keepers to go to Washington, D.C. to attend Trump’s Million MAGA March. She and Siniff stayed at the farm of Oath Keepers member Thomas Edward Caldwell in Virginia, USA.

On January 4, 2021, she left Ohio with Ohio State Regular Militia members.

Wearing goggles, a bulletproof vest and fatigues bearing Oath Keeper insignias, she went to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., USA on January 6, 2021 with eight other Oath Keepers members including Donovan Crowl. That day, Trump’s supporters breached the building while a joint session of Congress was certifying the vote of the Electoral College and affirming Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. After the riot, she wrote on Parler, “Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today. 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.”

She was 38 years old when she participated in the U.S. Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. About her role in the insurrection, she said, “I didn’t commit a crime. I didn’t destroy anything. I didn’t wreck anything. If they want to charge me, that’s fine but you’re welcome.”

From January 14-17, 2021, she and Crowl stayed in Caldwell’s house in Berryville, Clarke County, Virginia. On January 16, 2021, federal prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for her and Crowl. On January 17, 2021, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided the Jolly Roger but she was not there. The agents found in her house directions for making explosives authored by The Jolly Roger. On the same day, she and Crowl drove back from Virginia and turned themselves in to the police department in Urbana, Champaign County. They were booked into the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Montgomery County.

An FBI special agent filed a criminal complaint against her, Crowl and Caldwell, which was signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui on January 19, 2021.

She went to Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 not as an insurrectionist but as a medic, her lawyer said in a court filing on February 20, 2021. For his participation in the riot, she was charged with conspiracy, conspiracy to impede or injure officer, destruction of government property, obstruction of an official proceeding, restricted building or grounds and violent entry or disorderly conduct.

Who is Jessica Watkins - Oath Keepers Leader: Bio, Capitol Riot Arrest, Court Fillings
Jessica Watkins (center) at the US Capitol on Jan. 6.

Court filings

Jessica Watkins, an Oath Keeper charged with conspiring to storm the US Capitol, has asked to be released from jail pending trial, alleging that she has been “treated harshly” and is at “particular risk in custody” because she is transgender. She also argues she is no threat to the public and went to the Capitol only because “she believed that the president of the United States was calling upon her.”

Watkins, 38, a former Army ranger who served in Afghanistan, was “forced out of the military after her sexual orientation was discovered,” her attorney wrote in a motion for home detention filed late Saturday. In the petition, Watkins alleged that while in a county jail in Ohio, she was stripped naked and left “in a cell with lights on 24 hours a day for 4 days in full view of everyone.” According to the attorney, that was a response to a hunger strike Watkins went on in a failed attempt to get medical attention for an injury to her arm.

Watkins has been held in at least two facilities since her arrest, including the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio. A spokesperson for the county Sheriff’s Office, which administers the jail, said she could not provide immediate comment. It was not clear Saturday night where Watkins was currently being held.

Prosecutors have alleged that Watkins was part of an organized group of Oath Keepers and charge that they conspired to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

Court filings indicate that as early as Nov. 9 — less than a week after the election — Watkins was sending text messages inviting people to her group’s basic training in Ohio, telling one person, "l need you fighting fit by inauguration."

What did her attorney say?

Watkins’ attorney, federal public defender Michelle Peterson, argues that she poses no threat and should be allowed to return home with a GPS monitoring device, pending trial.

According to Peterson, Watkins has no history of violence and no prior convictions, and while she acknowledges entering the Capitol, she “did not vandalize anything … or engage in any destruction of property, and in fact, encouraged others not to vandalize.”

The public defender also noted that while in the Capitol, Watkins spoke with police officers, followed their orders, and “participated in medical rescue operations for injured people during the event.” Watkins is a former firefighter and EMT, working for a local fire department in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for several years.

nine members of the far-right Oath Keepers have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct Congress with the January 6 riot. Three, including Watkins, had previously been charged, but six new charges were announced by the Justice Department on Friday.

Prosecutors said in the indictment Friday the defendants planned to besiege the Capitol as early as November 3 and coordinated plans on social media for weeks beforehand the insurrection in DC.

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