Jessica Watkins, an Oath Keeper accused of preparing and training for at least two months to “fight hand to hand” to take over the Capitol, spoke out publicly for the first time in court Friday, claiming she plans to leave the far-right paramilitary group behind.
“My fellow Oath Keepers have kind of turned my stomach against it,” Watkins said during an afternoon detention hearing. “We’re done with that lifestyle ... I did it out of love for my country but it’s time to let all of that go.”
Watkins, a 38-year-old Army vet, is among several Oath Keepers who have been charged with conspiring and recruiting others to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory. She pleaded not guilty during Friday’s hearing.
Prosecutors have argued that Watkins’ continued loyalty to the Oath Keepers justifies their request to keep her detained pending trial—but she now insists she no longer wants to be affiliated with the militia group.
U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta ultimately sided with prosecutors on Friday, ordering Watkins to remain in jail until her trial. Mehta said he found the allegations against her disturbing, particularly the militia group’s coordination of a “quick reaction force,” an armed group that they planned to have stationed outside D.C. should the situation get bad. He also noted that directions on how to make explosives were found in Watkins’ home.
“She was organizing groups to come to the city on January 6. On the nature and circumstances of the offense, candidly, present a danger. This is historic, an incursion on the Capitol. She was an organizer,” Mehta said before his ruling. “Even before the election, Ms. Watkins was engaged in militaristic training.”
Federal authorities have described the Oath Keepers as “a large but loosely organized collection of [the] militia who believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights” and who heavily recruit former military, law enforcement, and first responders.
Watkins insisted on Friday that she is renouncing her membership from the Oath Keepers, and vowed to stay away from social media if released. She claims she wants to focus on her small business instead. On Friday, her defense lawyers argued that she’s a trained medic who only went to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to help maintain “law and order.”
“I am sorry for any inconvenience I have caused the court…. I am humbled and I am humiliated,” Watkins said.
Her attorney also claimed the Ohio bartender joined the Oath Keepers simply to support her own group, the Ohio Regular State Militia. Insisting that she was more of a “consultant” than a member, Watkins’ attorney added that she is looking to “disband” the ground she founded in 2019 because “she wants nothing to do with it anymore.”
Prosecutors, however, have argued Watkins “remains a leader within the broader militia movement.”
On Friday, prosecutors argued that Watkins continues to be a part of “a larger conspiracy” whose objective was “to prevent the electoral college from being certified.” Watkins planned with other Oath Keepers for months to disrupt democracy, including training recruits to get into “fighting shape” for another attack at the inauguration and vetting people interested in the Jan. 6 attack to “ensure the right people” were affiliated with the group, according to prosecutors.
As thousands of MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol, Watkins and her militia were clearly visible in photos and videos, marching tightly in an “organized line up the steps on the east side of the Capitol, wearing combat helmets, bullet-proof vests, gloves with knuckle protection, and radios,” prosecutors allege.
“Me before forcing entry into the Capitol Building. #stopthesteal #stormthecapitol #oathkeepers #ohiomilitia,” Watkins captioned a photo she posted of herself on Parler, the memo states.