Oath Keeper repents for Jan. 6 at trial, blames ‘steady diet’ of right-wing conspiracies
A member of the far-right militia the Oath Keepers on Wednesday said it was a “really stupid” decision to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, saying she was fed a “steady diet” of conspiracy theories and became “just another idiot” in the mob that day.
Jessica Watkins, a former bar owner in Ohio and an Army veteran, took the stand on Wednesday in a high-stakes trial charging Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four other militia members with the rarely used charge of seditious conspiracy.
Watkins, who has been locked up for two years following her arrest in the case, said she did not intend to stop certification of President Biden’s 2020 election victory when she stormed the Capitol in a military stack formation with other Oath Keepers, according to The Associated Press.
She also said she did not receive any commands from her militia group to enter the federal building that day.
According to the AP, Watkins explained she was given a “steady diet” of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election from “Infowars” host Alex Jones, who was recently ordered to pay more than $1 billion for spreading a conspiracy about the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut.
Watkins, Rhodes and three other Oath Keeper members on trial face up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the seditious conspiracy charges. Closing arguments could begin as early as this week in the trial, which began in late September.
Prosecutors have accused the defendants of plotting to overthrow the government not long after the 2020 election, charging them with organizing militia members to gather on Jan. 6 and of stashing weapons at a Virginia hotel before the rioting.
When he took the stand, Rhodes also said it was “stupid” for Oath Keepers members to charge into the Capitol and repeated that he never meant to overturn certification of the 2020 election.
Rather, Rhodes said he and other militia members were awaiting orders from former President Trump to invoke an old series of laws known as the Insurrection Act, which allows the commander-in-chief to call up a militia to quell a domestic disturbance.
But Watkins on Wednesday said there was no plan to invoke the Insurrection Act, according to The Washington Post.
“There was talk of the Insurrection Act, but no one was taking it seriously. I would put it below the Chinese invading,” Watkins said.
On Wednesday, another Oath Keepers member, Thomas Caldwell, also testified.
Caldwell, a retired Navy intelligence officer, said he was not serious when he wrote messages to the militia group about ferrying “heavy weapons” across the Potomac River into Oath Keepers’ “waiting arms,” according to the AP.
Caldwell called those messages “creative writing.”