HomePoliticsOath Keeper gets 8 1/2 years in prison for attacking the Capitol

Oath Keeper gets 8 1/2 years in prison for attacking the Capitol

By Jacqueline Thomsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A member of the far-right Oath Keepers was sentenced on Friday to eight and a half years in prison for her role in the deadly attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 by supporters of Donald Trump who sought to reverse his defeat in the presidential election to make.

Jessica Watkins was convicted by a federal jury in Washington in November of obstructing official proceedings for her role in storming the Capitol, in which rioters took on police, smashed windows and legislators fled for their lives.

Watkins was also convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of officers during the riot.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said on Friday it was “particularly difficult” to pass sentence to Watkins after she testified at trial about the struggles she faced with her transgender identity and her cooperation with law enforcement during their investigation into her behavior on January 1. 6.

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But he said that “doesn’t erase” what she did during the attack.

“Your role that day was more aggressive, more attacking, more purposeful than maybe others,” Mehta said.

Kenneth Harrelson, another Oath Keeper convicted of obstruction of official proceedings, was also found guilty of conspiring to prevent members of Congress from ratifying President Joe Biden’s election victory and tampering with documents and procedures. He will be sentenced later Friday.

Watkins and Harrelson were acquitted of seditious conspiracy.

Federal prosecutors had asked Mehta in Washington to sentence Watkins to 18 years in prison.

During tearful remarks in court, Watkins asked Mehta to pronounce a just sentence.

“My actions and my behavior on that fateful day were wrong and, as I now understand, criminal,” she said.

Federal prosecutor Alexandra Hughes told Mehta on Friday that the actions of Watkins and other Oath Keepers on that day “were not an aberration” and that a significant sentence should be imposed.

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Watkins’ lawyer asked for a five-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors are seeking a 15-year prison sentence for Harrelson. Harrelson and his lawyers have not proposed a sentence and he insists he is innocent.

Friday’s court proceedings come a day after Mehta sentenced Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in prison for crimes including seditious conspiracy or using force to try to overthrow the federal government. That is the harshest sentence yet against those charged in the January 6 violence.

Founded by Rhodes in 2009, members of the Oath Keepers include current and retired U.S. military, law enforcement, and first responders. They have appeared, often heavily armed, at protests and political events, including racial justice demonstrations that followed the 2020 Minneapolis murder of a black man named George Floyd by a white police officer.

Some of the Oath Keepers, including Watkins and Harrelson, broke through the Capitol in paramilitary gear. Others organized a “rapid response force” at a suburban hotel, which prosecutors said was equipped with firearms that could be quickly transported to Washington.

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Four other Oath Keepers members convicted of seditious conspiracy in a second trial will be sentenced next week.

(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington; Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone and Mark Porter)

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