An Ohio woman ordered held in jail pending trial on charges in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol told a federal judge late Friday that she has disbanded her armed group in Ohio and plans to cancel her membership in the Oath Keepers.
Jessica Watkins, 38, of Champaign County, told U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta in the District of Columbus that she was appalled and humiliated by the events of Jan. 6.
“As soon as I’m out, whether acquittal or release, I’m canceling my Oath Keepers membership,” she said. “I have no desire to continue with people who say things like that.”
‘I did it out of the love of my country’
Watkins said she helped form an Ohio State Regular Militia to assist with search and rescues during tornadoes, and to assist law enforcement as needed. She said she has now disbanded the group and wants to focus on her small business, the Jolly Roger Bar and Grill in Woodstock, about 40 miles northwest of Columbus.
“We’re done with that lifestyle,” Watkins said. “We’ve got a struggling small business. I did it out of the love of my country, but I think it’s time to let all of that go … I don’t intend to read social media for amusement or political purposes. I think it’s just time for me to focus on my business.”
Watkins offered the comments during a hearing before Judge Mehta, on the federal bench in the District of Columbia, seeking her release from custody pending legal proceedings against her on criminal charges in the Capitol riot. The insurrection temporarily disrupted the U.S. House and Senate as they officially counted the Electoral College vote won by Joe Biden.
Judge denies release pending trial
Watkins’ pronouncements didn’t sway Mehta, however, as the judge declined to release her from federal custody pending a trial.
“I’ve thought about this quite hard, Miss Watkins,” the judge said. “And I think, at the end of the day, I just can’t get there. I don’t think putting you on home detention would ensure the safety of the community … You are an active participant, organizer, leader of others in engaging in this kind of conduct. The material found at your home certainly suggests further potential for organizing and further potential for violence.”
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Watkins is among at least 10 Ohioans who have been charged in the Capitol riot to date.
She and Donovan Crowl, 50, also of Champaign County, were arrested a little more than a week after the attack among members of the Oath Keepers, whose members “believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights,” according to court records.
Prosecutors have sought to keep Watkins and others in custody during court proceedings against them, alleging potential ongoing dangers to the community if they were released.
“She was involved in active recruitment, planning and coordinating future violence against the government,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ahmed Baset. “There are no conditions or set of conditions that would preclude her from engaging in that type of activity moving forward. Even if she’s placed under home confinement, even if she has an electronic monitoring system, it would not stop her.”
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Watkins’ denouncement of Oath Keepers not enough for release
Michelle Peterson, chief assistant federal public defender, who is representing Watkins, asked the court to release Watkins to home confinement, writing that her client was not violent and did not vandalize or destroy property on Jan. 6. Watkins entered the Capitol about 40 minutes after others had breached the building, she wrote.
Additionally, Watkins has no prior history of violence or criminal convictions, spoke to officers and Secret Service members that day, provided her contact information, and turned herself into local police when she learned of her arrest warrant, Peterson argued.
“I have seen no evidence that she committed any acts of violence,” Peterson said Friday, adding that others who were arrested in the Jan. 6 riot who did commit violent acts have been released from custody pending trial.
Mehta, however, cited Watkins’ actions leading up to and on Jan. 6, along with weapons, tactical gear and a recipe for a destructive device found in her residence during a warranted search afterward in deciding against her release
She expressed “a desire to fight, kill and die over the result of this election,” he said. “Again, these aren’t just mere expressions. They’ve actually been followed up by conduct … While you have today denounced the Oath Keepers, you have renounced your affiliation with them, I have to balance that against your prior conduct. There is a continued risk, it seems to me, that once you are released, that you will reaffiliate yourself with these groups and these people.”
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Jessica Watkins: Oath Keeper charged in Capitol riot renounces group