A federal trial into how a far-right militia called the Oath Keepers attacked the U.S. Capitol begins this week. Among the defendants is Ohioan Jessica Watkins.
Watkins, 39, of Woodstock in Champaign County, is one of five whose trial begins this week for their roles in storming the U.S. Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power to Democratic President Joe Biden on Jan. 6, 2021. Watkins faces several charges, including seditious conspiracy.
However, much of the spotlight will be focused on another defendant: Oath Keepers' leader Stewart Rhodes. He predicted "a bloody, bloody civil war" if former President Donald Trump did not remain in office.
'Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today': Ohio militia members arrested
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Watkins is one of several dozen Ohioans who face federal charges for participating in riots at the U.S. Capitol. With 49 defendants arrested in Ohio, the Buckeye State was surpassed in number only by Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's list of cases, which details where individuals were arrested.
Per capita, Ohio came in 8th behind states closer to the U.S. Capitol like Pennslyvania, Delaware and Virginia and Washington D.C. Ohio is the 7th most populous state in the nation.
The vast majority of those charged, both nationally and in Ohio, are people who broke into the Capitol illegally without an elaborate plan and without harming anyone. However, Watkins and three other Ohioans have been charged with conspiracy, indicating they allegedly went beyond simply following the crowd.
Who is Jessica Watkins?
Watkins described herself as the commanding officer of the Ohio State Regular Militia, a "dues-paying subset" of the Oath Keepers, on social media, according to federal investigators. She went by "cap" or "captain" among fellow Oath Keepers.
The FBI describes the Oath Keepers as "a large but loosely organized collection of 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."
Watkins is accused of organizing an Ohio-based effort to breach the Capitol, leading Donovan Crowl, also of Champaign County, and two Morrow residents Bennie and Sandra Parker. Watkins attended Oath Keeper leader Rhodes' November meeting where he outlined how to prevent the transfer of presidential power. She sent messages to people labeled "recruits" and talked about "basic training" about an hour north of Columbus, according to federal investigators.
When a recruit asked Watkins her predictions for 2021, Watkins responded: "I can't predict. I don't underestimate the resolve of the Deep State. Biden may still yet 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."
On Jan. 6, 2021, Watkins and others dressed in tactical gear and marched in a "stack" formation, one after another, to enter the building. "We're in the f***ing Capitol, Crowl!" Watkins exclaimed in a video posted on Parler.
Once inside the Rotunda, Watkins and others moved toward Senate chamber as she yelled "push, push, push" and "get in there!" But they retreated once officers used chemical spray on the crowd.
Watkins served in the Army in Afghanistan and ran a bar called the Jolly Roger in Woodstock, which has since closed. Following her arrest, Watkins told a judge she renounced the Oath Keepers and was "embarrassed" by her actions, according to the Associated Press. "I did it out of the love of my country but I think it's time to let all of that go."
What happened to Ohioans charged in the Jan. 6 attack?
To date, nine people from Ohio have been sentenced for crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack. Of the nine, six have been sentenced to incarceration ranging from 14 days to five months, according to the Department of Justice.
Terry Lynn Lindsey, of Piqua, was sentenced to five months of incarceration and three years of probation. He was pictured inside the Capitol holding an American flag and posing with a bust of Abraham Lincoln.
Before entering the Capitol, Lindsey and others yelled at police trying to keep them out of the building, calling them "oathbreakers," according to court documents.
Stephen Michael Ayres, of Trumbull County, was sentenced to two years of probation after he testified before the House Select Committee investigating the attack.
Ayres told the committee he felt sorry for participating in the event. He warned others about blindly following one politician. "The biggest thing for me is to take the blinders off and make sure you step back and see what's going on − before it's too late."
The Associated Press and Columbus Dispatch contributed to this article.
Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Oath Keepers trial: Who is Jessica Watkins of Ohio?