Army veteran and Oath Keepers member Jessica Watkins was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison on Friday for participating in the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
At her sentencing in a Washington, D.C., court Friday, Watkins branded herself as an “idiot” for her involvement in the violent effort to stop the certification of the 2020 election results and keep Donald Trump in office.
“I was just another idiot running around the Capitol. But idiots are held responsible, and today you’re going to hold this idiot responsible,” she said, NBC News reported.
During her trial, prosecutors brought evidence of Watkins assembling a small militia in Ohio and bringing them to D.C. for the riot in coordination with the Oath Keepers, a far-right extremist group tagged by the Justice Department as a “paramilitary organization.” Once there on Jan. 6, a tactical gear-clad Watkins was among those encouraging rioters to push past police and onto the Senate floor, evidence showed.
“Your role that day was more aggressive, more assaultive, more purposeful than perhaps others’. And you led others to fulfill your purposes,” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said at Watkins’ sentencing, according to CNN.
While she expresses regret now, Mehta continued that Watkins once stood by her actions:
“And there was not in the immediate aftermath any sense of shame or contrition, just the opposite. Your comments were celebratory and lacked a real sense of the gravity of that day and your role in it.”
Watkins’ sentencing comes a day after Mehta sentenced Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, one of the group’s leaders, to 18 and 12 years in prison, respectively.
Before handing down Watkins’ sentence, Mehta acknowledged her difficult life experience. Watkins, who is transgender, testified during the trial that she struggled with her identity during her time in the Army and was highly vulnerable to conspiracy theories during the 2020 election.
“You have overcome a lot, and you are to be held out as someone who can actually be a role model for other people in that journey. And I say that at a time when people who are trans in our country are so often vilified and used for political purposes,” Mehta said before adding: “It makes it all the more hard for me to understand the lack of empathy for those who suffered that day.”