CLEVELAND, Ohio — An Ohio bartender, accused of storming the U.S. Capitol in military gear last month, said she believed former President Donald Trump wanted “all abled-bodied patriots to come [to Washington, D.C.],” a move she deemed necessary to stop Joseph Biden from becoming president, according to documents federal prosecutors filed Thursday.
The filings provide the most detailed views of the extremist push by Jessica Watkins and other members of the Oath Keepers, a militia group that rioted at the Capitol amid the Stop the Steal rally Jan. 6.
Hundreds of protesters forced their way into the Capitol the day both chambers of Congress certified Biden as the winner of the November election. Moments before the riots, Trump gave a heated speech about fighting for America.
“In this backdrop, Watkins and her co-conspirators formed a subset of the most extreme insurgents that plotted [and] then tried to execute a sophisticated plan to forcibly stop the results of a presidential election from taking effect,” prosecutors wrote in the filings in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
Prosecutors submitted the records as they sought to keep Watkins, 38, of Champaign County in Southwest Ohio, detained until her trial on federal charges of conspiracy, destruction of government property, obstruction of an official proceeding and unlawful entry into a government building. An attorney for Watkins is not listed in court documents.
She and two others — Donovan Crowl, 50, also of Champaign County, and Thomas Caldwell, 65, of Clark County, Virginia — are accused of carefully planning an attack on the Capitol with other members of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing extremist group made up mostly of former military and police officers who believe the U.S. government is stripping away residents’ rights and freedoms.
In the documents, Justice Department attorneys wrote that as the inauguration for Biden drew near, Watkins sought “direction from President Trump.” Prosecutors said her concern stemmed from “taking action without his backing.”
In a text to a supporter days after Trump lost the election, Watkins said, “I am concerned this is an elaborate trap. Unless the POTUS himself activates us, it’s not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units, too. If Trump asks me to come, I will. Otherwise, I can’t trust it.”
In late December, Watkins appeared ready to go to Washington: She sent a text that said, “We plan on going to DC on the 6th” because “Trump wants all able-bodied patriots to come.” She added that if the then-president activates the Insurrection Act, “I’d hate to miss it.”
Prosecutors wrote that Watkins played a central role in organizing some of her group’s trip to Washington with others in Ohio. She also worked to train others.
“Watkins was thus not an ancillary player who became swept up in the moment, but a key figure who put into motion the violence that overwhelmed the Capitol,” according to Thursday’s filing.
Prosecutors said Watkins believed the newly elected government, with Biden as president, was illegitimate. The attorneys said Watkins “exhibited a single-minded devotion to obstruct through violence an official proceeding … to confirm the next president of the United States.”
Prosecutors said Watkins showed great fear of a Biden presidency. On Nov. 17, according to the filings, she told a person listed in her contacts as a recruit that “if Biden gets the steal, none of us have a chance in my mind. We already have our neck in the noose. They just haven’t kicked in the chair yet.”
She added: “I don’t underestimate the resolve of the Deep State. Biden may still be our President. If he is, our way of life as we know it is over. Our Republic would be over. Then it is our duty as Americans to fight, kill and die for our rights.”
According to prosecutors, once she was in the Capitol on Jan. 6, she and others talked via cellphone app about what was happening. An unidentified man discussed executing citizen’s arrests of legislators for acts of treason, election fraud, the filings said.
“For Watkins, this was a moment to relish in the swirling violence in the air,” prosecutors wrote.
They said she “gleefully exclaimed” through the app that “We are in the mezzanine. We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades. They are fricking shooting people with paintballs. But we are here.”
An unknown male fired back to her, according to prosecutors: “Get it Jess. Do your f—ing thing. Everything we f—ing we trained for.”
Prosecutors called her a “confirmed dues-paying member of the Oath Keepers.” She has claimed on social media to be the commanding officer of the Ohio State Regular Militia.
On Thursday, prosecutors also sought to keep Caldwell detained until his trial on the conspiracy charges. On the night of the Capitol’s riots, prosecutors said, Caldwell had already begun thinking of the group’s next operation.
He messaged Crowl and said: “We need to do this at the local level. Let’s storm the capitol in Ohio. Tell me when!”
A message left at the office of Thomas K. Plofchan, Caldwell’s attorney, was not returned Thursday. An attorney for Crowl is not listed in court documents.
— to www.cleveland.com