Storming Capitol was ‘really stupid,’ Oath Keeper testifies

Nov 15, 2022, 11:20 PM | Updated: Nov 16, 2022, 2:47 pm
FILE - This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four others c...

FILE - This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four others charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, in Washington, Oct. 6, 2022. Shown above are, witness John Zimmerman, who was part of the Oath Keepers' North Carolina Chapter, seated in the witness stand, defendant Thomas Caldwell, of Berryville, Va., seated front row left, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, seated second left with an eye patch, defendant Jessica Watkins, of Woodstock, Ohio, seated third from right, Kelly Meggs, of Dunnellon, Fla., seated second from right, and defendant Kenneth Harrelson, of Titusville, Fla., seated at right. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy is shown in blue standing at right before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta. Watkins told jurors Wednesday, Nov. 16 that it was a "really stupid" decision, saying she got swept up in what seemed to be a "very American moment." (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

(Dana Verkouteren via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Ohio bar owner who stormed the U.S. Capitol in a military-style stack formation with fellow members of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group told jurors Wednesday that it was a “really stupid” decision, saying she got swept up in what seemed to be a “very American moment.”

In a decision that surprised even the judge, Jessica Watkins took the the stand to testify in her defense as the high-stakes seditious conspiracy case against her, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and three others nears a close.

Watkins, an Army veteran who has been locked up since her arrest nearly two years ago, testified that she never intended to interfere with Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory and never heard any commands for her and other Oath Keepers to enter the building on Jan. 6, 2021.

Watkins recalled consuming a “steady diet” of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ “Infowars” show, which pushed the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. She called herself “just another idiot” in the mob on Jan. 6 and likened the scene outside the Capitol — where rioters smashed windows and engaged in hand-to-hand combat with police — to a Black Friday sale.

“Are you proud of what you did?” her attorney, Jonathan Crisp, asked.

“Not anymore,” Watkins replied.

Watkins, of Woodstock, Ohio, is the third defendant in the more than monthlong trial to take the witness stand — a move generally considered by defense lawyers as a last-resort option as it opens defendants up to intense cross-examination by prosecutors and often does more harm than good. Prosecutors will get a chance to question Watkins on Thursday.

Watkins took the stand in the seventh week of testimony in the case accusing Rhodes, Watkins and three others of a violent plot to stop the transfer of presidential power. Closing arguments could happen as early as this week.

Jurors have heard how Watkins before the riot was messaging with people who expressed interest in joining her Ohio militia group about “military-style basic” training planned for early January. She told one recruit: “I need you fighting fit” by the inauguration, which was Jan. 20, 2021.

They have seen video of Watkins and other Oath Keepers shouldering through the angry pro-Trump mob and into the building in what prosecutors have described as military-style stack formation. They have also heard a recording of a channel called “Stop the Steal J6” on the walkie-talkie app Zello that Watkins used to communicate with others during the riot.

“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 paint balls. But we are in here,” Watkins said in the recording.

“Get it, Jess. … Everything we (expletive) trained for,” someone responded.

The defense has spent weeks hammering prosecutors’ lack of evidence of an explicit plan for the Oath Keepers to attack the Capitol before Jan. 6.

Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate from Granbury, Texas, told jurors that there was never a plan to attack the Capitol. He testified that he was surprised and upset when he learned that some group members had joined a pro-Trump mob in storming the building and that their only mission that day was to provide security for Trump ally Roger Stone and others at events before the rally.

Thomas Caldwell, another defendant whose trial testimony ended earlier on Wednesday, told jurors he wasn’t serious when he floated the idea in messages before the riot of getting a boat that could ferry “heavy weapons” across the Potomac River into Oath Keepers’ “waiting arms.” Caldwell, a retired U.S. Navy intelligence officer from Berryville, Virginia, described it as “creative writing.”

Watkins’ lawyer told jurors during opening statements last month that she is a transgender woman who served as an Army Ranger but was discharged early — a decision that has “haunted her for the duration of her life.”

“She’s never felt like she fit in,” Crisp said. “A lot of the things she did that day were to try and fit in.”

Watkins told jurors that she struggled with her gender identity since she was a young child but kept it from her parents for years given her strict Christian upbringing. She described being confronted after a deployment to Afghanistan by a fellow soldier who borrowed her laptop and saw evidence of her contact with a support group for transgender people.

“I just panicked. Freaked out,” she said. “I panicked and went AWOL. I ran.”

Watkins said she went AWOL for about two months, spending time in Alaska before receiving an “other than honorable” discharge. She came out to her parents, who she said told her “never to come home again.” Watkins said she reconciled with her parents roughly 15 years later, and they welcomed her back home.

Her fiancé, Montana Siniff, testified earlier this month that Watkins’ 2003 discharge came after she was hazed on a deployment. “She was hazed to the point on one of her deployments that she absolutely feared for her life,” he told jurors.

Watkins’ attorney didn’t signal before Wednesday that she planned to testify. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta appeared frustrated that the court wasn’t given a heads-up, telling Watkins’ lawyer “it would have been nice to know this” before he told jurors earlier in the day that they may get the case by Friday.

Also on trial with Watkins, Rhodes and Caldwell are Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, and Kenneth Harrelson, another group member from Florida. They face several other felony charges in addition to seditious conspiracy.

___

Associated Press reporter Alanna Durkin Richer contributed from Boston.

___

For full coverage of the Capitol riot, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Police: 180 dogs and cats removed from home by hazmat team

BRICK, N.J. (AP) — Some 180 dogs and cats were removed from a New Jersey home by a hazmat team after officials reported the animals were being kept in “horrible and inhumane conditions,” authorities say. Brick Township police said officers entered the home Friday night and found stacks of animal crates containing dogs and cats, […]
2 days ago
FILE - In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by th...
Associated Press

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

CAIRO (AP) — An Iranian lawmaker said Sunday that Iran’s government is “paying attention to the people’s real demands,” state media reported, a day after a top official suggested that the country’s morality police whose conduct helped trigger months of protests has been shut down. The role of the morality police, which enforces veiling laws, […]
2 days ago
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the J Street National Conference at the Omni Shoreham H...
Associated Press

Blinken vows US support for Israel despite unease over govt

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday the U.S. will not shrink from its unwavering support for Israel despite stark differences with Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu and concerns the Biden administration may have about potential members of his incoming right-wing government. Speaking to a left-leaning group that some on the right accuse […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Farmer: Georgia dog injured saving sheep from coyote attack

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia sheepdog is recovering at home two days after killing a pack of coyotes that attacked his owner’s flock of sheep, farmer John Wierwiller said. Casper, a 20-month old Great Pyrenees from Decatur, fought off a pack of coyotes who were threatening Wierwiller’s sheep farm, he said. The fight lasted […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Report: Woman attacks 6 deputies at New Orleans airport

Officials say a woman bit, kicked and spat on six sheriff’s deputies while refusing to exit a plane at an airport in Louisiana early Thanksgiving Day, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported Saturday. Authorities said the 25-year-old woman attacked Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, according to local news reports. […]
2 days ago
FILE - A Twitter logo hangs outside the company's San Francisco offices on Nov. 1, 2022. A top Euro...
Associated Press

As Musk is learning, content moderation is a messy job

Now that he’s back on Twitter, neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin wants somebody to explain the rules. Anglin, the founder of an infamous neo-Nazi website, was reinstated Thursday, one of many previously banned users to benefit from an amnesty granted by Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk. The next day, Musk banished Ye, the rapper formerly known as […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Storming Capitol was ‘really stupid,’ Oath Keeper testifies