Storming Capitol Was ‘Actually Silly,’ Oath Keeper Testifies

WASHINGTON — A former Ohio bar proprietor who stormed the U.S. Capitol in a military-style stack formation with fellow members of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group advised jurors Wednesday that it was a “actually silly” determination, saying she bought swept up in what gave the impression to be a “very American second.”

In a call that stunned even the decide, Jessica Watkins took the the stand to testify in her protection because the high-stakes seditious conspiracy case towards her, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and three others nears a detailed.

Watkins, an Army veteran who has been locked up since her arrest almost two years in the past, testified that she by no means meant to intrude with Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory and by no means heard any instructions for her and different Oath Keepers to enter the constructing on Jan. 6, 2021.

Watkins recalled consuming a “regular food regimen” of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ “Infowars” present, which pushed the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. She referred to as herself “simply one other fool” within the mob on Jan. 6 and likened the scene outdoors the Capitol — the place rioters smashed home windows and engaged in hand-to-hand fight with police — to a Black Friday sale.

“Are you happy with what you probably did?” her lawyer, Jonathan Crisp, requested.

“Not anymore,” Watkins replied.

Watkins, of Woodstock, Ohio, is the third defendant within the greater than monthlong trial to take the witness stand — a transfer usually thought-about by protection legal professionals as a last-resort choice because it opens defendants as much as intense cross-examination by prosecutors and sometimes does extra hurt than good. Prosecutors will get an opportunity to query Watkins on Thursday.

Watkins took the stand within the seventh week of testimony within the case accusing Rhodes, Watkins and three others of a violent plot to cease the switch of presidential energy. Closing arguments may occur as early as this week.

Jurors have heard how Watkins earlier than the riot was messaging with individuals who expressed curiosity in becoming a member of her Ohio militia group about “military-style fundamental” coaching deliberate for early January. She advised one recruit: “I would like you preventing match” by the inauguration, which was Jan. 20, 2021.

They’ve seen video of Watkins and different Oath Keepers shouldering via the offended pro-Trump mob and into the constructing in what prosecutors have described as military-style stack formation. They’ve additionally heard a recording of a channel referred to as “Cease the Steal J6” on the walkie-talkie app Zello that Watkins used to speak with others through the riot.

“We’re within the mezzanine. We’re in the primary dome proper now. We’re rocking it. They’re throwing grenades, they’re fricking capturing folks with paint balls. However we’re in right here,” Watkins stated within the recording.

“Get it, Jess. … All the things we (expletive) skilled for,” somebody responded.

The protection has spent weeks hammering prosecutors’ lack of proof of an express plan for the Oath Keepers to assault the Capitol earlier than Jan. 6.

Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper and Yale Legislation Faculty graduate from Granbury, Texas, advised jurors that there was by no means a plan to assault the Capitol. He testified that he was stunned and upset when he discovered that some group members had joined a pro-Trump mob in storming the constructing and that their solely mission that day was to supply safety for Trump ally Roger Stone and others at occasions earlier than the rally.

Thomas Caldwell, one other defendant whose trial testimony ended earlier on Wednesday, advised jurors he wasn’t critical when he floated the thought in messages earlier than the riot of getting a ship that would ferry “heavy weapons” throughout the Potomac River into Oath Keepers’ “ready arms.” Caldwell, a retired U.S. Navy intelligence officer from Berryville, Virginia, described it as “artistic writing.”

Watkins’ lawyer advised jurors throughout opening statements final month that she is a transgender lady who served as an Army Ranger however was discharged early — a call that has “haunted her all through her life.”

“She’s by no means felt like she slot in,” Crisp stated. “A variety of the issues she did that day have been to try to slot in.”

Watkins advised jurors that she struggled along with her gender id since she was a younger youngster however stored it from her dad and mom for years given her strict Christian upbringing. She described being confronted after a deployment to Afghanistan by a fellow soldier who borrowed her laptop computer and noticed proof of her contact with a help group for transgender folks.

“I simply panicked. Freaked out,” she stated. “I panicked and went AWOL. I ran.”

Watkins stated she went AWOL for about two months, spending time in Alaska earlier than receiving an “apart from honorable” discharge. She got here out to her dad and mom, who she stated advised her “by no means to return dwelling once more.” Watkins stated she reconciled along with her dad and mom roughly 15 years later, and so they welcomed her again dwelling.

Her fiancé, Montana Siniff, testified earlier this month that Watkins’ 2003 discharge got here after she was hazed on a deployment. “She was hazed to the purpose on one among her deployments that she completely feared for her life,” he advised jurors.

Additionally on trial with Watkins, Rhodes and Caldwell are Kelly Meggs, chief of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, and Kenneth Harrelson, one other group member from Florida. They face a number of different felony costs along with seditious conspiracy.

Related Press reporter Alanna Durkin Richer contributed from Boston.

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