Since the deadly storming of the US Capitol building by Trump loyalists, federal authorities have brought multiple charges against rioters, many of whom remain behind bars over concerns they may incite additional violent actions against the government.
Federal prosecutors revealed in a Thursday court filing that Jessica Watkins, a Ohio militia leader, was “awaiting direction” from former US President Donald Trump in the days leading up to the deadly Capitol riot.
The filing, which includes some of the most direct links between Trump and the rioters, states Watkins is a “key figure who put into motion the violence that overwhelmed the Capitol” and was by no means “an ancillary player who became swept up in the moment.”
A military veteran who is a “dues-paying member of the Oath Keepers,” Watkins is alleged to be the commanding officer of the non-official Ohio State Regular Militia, a local organization whose members make up a subset of the Oath Keepers group, according to the filing.
Text messages obtained by investigators note that Watkins and other individuals had established training sessions for members and new recruits that included two days of “wargames” that made up a “larger ‘combat’ training for ‘urban warfare, riot control, and rescue operations.’”
In one message included in the filing, Watkins tells a recruit that they’re needed “fighting fit by innaugeration [sic]” while telling another member that “the rest of us will be training with [recruits] to get us all field-ready before inauguration.”
However, as Inauguration Day drew nearer, the military veteran indicated that she was “awaiting direction” from Trump before taking action over the latter’s claims of a stolen election. She noted in a November 9 text message that she was growing increasingly concerned that “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,” the message continued. Watkins eventually received her undisclosed signal, later telling co-defendant Donovan Crowl that militia members intended to travel to Washington, DC, on January 6 because “Trump wants all able bodied Patriots to come.”
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) January 28, 2021
Additional messages exchanged with others revealed that plans were in place for some members to remain outside of the nation’s capital and serve as a “quick reaction force” that would be able to funnel weapons and be at the ready, should Trump call on them to enter the district.
By the time the infamous January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally was held, Watkins told fellow militia members over an encrypted app channel that her group included between 30 and 40 individuals who were “sticking together and sticking to the plan,” prosecutors highlighted. After breaching security barriers at the Capitol, Watkins radioed to others that her group was “in the main dome right now. We are rocking it.”
The intentions of the group became clearer when an unidentified individual radioed that individuals should be making citizen’s arrests. “Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud,” the unknown male was allegedly heard saying.
In their argument to keep Watkins in jail pending trial, prosecutors argued that the deadly Capitol riot that saw five people killed “was a moment to relish in the swirling violence in the air” for Watkins, adding that she “exhibited a single-minded devotion to obstruct through violence an official proceeding.”
“Crimes of this magnitude, committed with such zeal, belie any conditions of release that would reasonably assure the safety of the community or by which Watkins could be trusted to abide,” officials argued. “Unlike the vast majority, Watkins had trained and plotted for a moment like this.”
Watkins, who was arrested on January 18, along with Crowl, has been hit with several charges, including obstructing an official proceeding and destruction of government property, among other offenses.