Washington — The Oath Keepers conspiracy trial took an unexpected turn Wednesday when defendant Jessica Watkins — an Army veteran from Ohio — decided to testify in her own defense, a move that He faced a jury in Washington, DC. To judge his guilt.
Watkins is accused of mobilizing a group of Oath Keepers in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021, in support of then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Prosecutors say he eventually made his way from Trump’s speech in the White House Alps — armored and dressed in tactical gear — to the Capitol building, allegedly building a military-style rampage to breach the building. where he allegedly interfered with law enforcement and encouraged others. Members of the crowd push past police.
He and four of his co-defendants have been charged with conspiracy to subvert — the most serious count so far in the Justice Department investigation — a plan to use force to prevent a peaceful presidential transition from Trump to Joe Biden. There is an allegation of blocking. They all pleaded not guilty.
The defendant testified that he had not intended to enter the Capitol that day but “lost objectivity” in the crowd, rejecting the government’s claim that the group had formed a military formation to approach the building. .
Prosecutors have already presented the jury with several messages and recordings of Watkins discussing plans to visit the nation’s capital on Jan. 6 and announcing that the group had launched an attack on a digital communications app like Radio. During the “Attack on the Capitol”.
But Watkins testified that his plan was not to storm the Capitol, but to provide medical care and protection during the planned protests, a common defense at trial said. The day took a turn, she said, when she became “another idiot” inside the Capitol building, part of the crowd. His mention of storming the Capitol, he argued, was the result of joining the mob. Watkins claimed that he thought the Electoral College votes had been verified. It was not, he testified, a demand for action.
“At no point did anyone say, ‘Now is the time to enter the capitol? Now is the time to withhold certification,'” his attorney, Jonathan Crisp, asked in court Wednesday.
“No, sir,” Watkins said, “I thought the certification was over.”
But once inside, Watkins said she was “furious” that she was a stolen election and suffering from broken ribs, and that’s why she was urging others to They let the police through the building.
He told the jury it was “stupid,” and he admitted to interfering with law enforcement and apologized, explaining that the officers were simply “trying to save the capital from my damn face.” “
“I thought it was an American moment,” Watkins said of his mindset in the days after the attack, “I took one for the team.” But he reflected that he has since regretted his actions and is no longer proud of his role in the events of January 6.
Crisp previously described his client’s actions on Jan. 6 as “misguided and erroneous,” an attempt to fit in.
Watkins — who is transgender — said Wednesday that she went AWOL from military service after her true identity was denounced by her roommate in the military. She fled to Alaska because her family didn’t accept her, a rejection she said still fills her with a “level of shame.”
The jury heard testimony that Watkins eventually returned home to Ohio and bought a bar after her family came to terms with her identity.
She said she began to worry about the collapse of her business after the 2017 presidential election and heading into 2020. She said she thought, “If Trump gets re-elected, the anti-Trump There will be more of it from factions,” he alleged. for loss.
Watkins explained that he and his fiancee, Montana Seneff — who also testified in Watkins’ defense — started a militia in the spring of 2020 to protect themselves and other businesses, including Breonna Taylor. In the wake of the assassination of Louisville, Ky. (Watkins) condemned Taylor’s death on the stand).
“I got a steady diet of Infowars and Alex Jones,” Watkins said of this period in her life, “which led her to join the far-right group Oath Keepers. She learned that the group, on Jan. is going to protect ally Roger Stone — whom he said is “stoked” for him — and at one point discussed protecting a member of Congress.
Oathkeepers group chat messages released before the trial show that they actually discussed protecting Stone and other Trump allies, including Michael Flynn.
Prosecutors say part of the alleged plot involved the creation of a Quick Reaction Force (QRF), which involved stockpiling weapons at a nearby hotel in Virginia to respond if they were called to Washington, D.C. ready for
Despite ample evidence showing his knowledge of some of the QRF on Jan. 6 — including a message he sent on Jan. 4 about disarming — Watkins said Wednesday that anything “solid.” do not have.
Watkins acknowledged, however, that the group was preparing to invoke the Sedition Act for Trump after the election results were rejected in Congress, requiring militias to defend against members of the “left wing.” Whom they expect to “lose their minds” and start over. Riots
Neither Watkins nor his codefendants — including leader Stuart Rhodes — are accused of bringing weapons into Washington, DC, and Trump has never obeyed the decades-old law.
Prosecutors have yet to cross-examine Watkins, which is expected Thursday. They are likely to be confronted with the defendant’s own comments and communications on and after January 6, as defendant Thomas Caldwell has been questioned..
Caldwell, Rhodes and now Watkins have decided to take the stand in their own defense during the high-profile trial. Two other defendants, Kenneth Harrelson and Kelly Maggs, have so far chosen not to testify.
Judge Amit Mehta, who presided over the trial, said on Wednesday that the jury is likely to begin deliberating the case on Monday afternoon.