More than a year after the January 6, 2021, insurrection where a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, leading to multiple deaths and injuries, prosecutors are readying themselves for the trials of a number of the alleged organizers of the events.
While some insurrectionists, like Brandon Stratka, have cut deals to provide investigators with information, others have stood their ground. Jessica Watkins, a trans woman who is one of the most prominent figures in the trials, has maintained her innocence and is set to argue her case at the end of January.
Here's everything you need to know.
Who is Jessica Watkins?
Jessica Watkins is an Army veteran. She served in the military under her former name, serving in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2003. Later, she was a first responder as a firefighter and emergency medical technician in North Carolina. She lived in Woodstock, Ohio, with her boyfriend Montana Siniff. There, she owned and operated a bar and grill with him called The Jolly Roger.
Watkins was a dues-paying member of the Oath Keepers. In addition, she formed a small, local "paramilitary group," according to Buzzfeed News, called the Ohio State Regular Militia.
What did Jessica Watkins have to do with the insurrection?
According to social media evidence, records obtained by investigators, and various videos, Watkins traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in the insurrection and, wearing full tactical gear, was a part of the group that entered the Capitol, getting at least as far as the rotunda. According to prosecutors, though, she not only participated in the action but helped to coordinate it: Investigators showed texts to those she wanted to join her militia and other messages where she tried to get them to come to trainings. She mentioned getting the recruits "fighting fit" for inauguration.
After Watkins's home was raided — she was not there — and FBI agents found numerous firearms, pool sticks cut down to baton size, and medical supplies, she turned herself in to police.
What does Jessica Watkins say happened at the January 6 insurrection?
According to Watkins, she was in Washington as security for various speakers for the events leading up to the Capitol invasion. Her posts on Parler made this clear. In another Parler post, she wrote that she had been a part of the storming of the Capitol.
"Teargassed, the whole, 9," she wrote. "Pushed our way into the Rotunda. Made it into the Senate even. The news is lying (even Fox) about the Historical Events we created today." In interviews, she has consistently claimed that once inside she tried to stop others from vandalizing the building.
After being arrested, in court Watkins disavowed the Oath Keepers and said she had disbanded her militia. A judge ruled that she was to remain in custody until her trial though Watkins said she was being treated unfairly as she is transgender. She said that injuries she had were not treated and she was forced to remain naked in her cell for days. Officials denied this happened.
"My name is Jessica Watkins, and I am a January 6th defendant," she wrote in a statement to The Gateway Pundit in December. " I have been incarcerated nearly a year for crimes I did not commit, so as to serve as a pawn for 'The Party' to exploit. And exploit they have." In the statement, she claimed that January 6 was a riot incited by police.
"Our charges are false, the truth manipulated, and we will one day be vindicated," she wrote.
What are the charges against Jessica Watkins for the January 6 insurrection?
Watkins's is of the most high-profile cases in the prosecution of those involved in the January 6 insurrection. According to investigators, she went beyond being a participant and was an organizer of the event, recruiting, training, and directing others. On January 13 of this year, she was one of 11 individuals indicted in federal court on charges of seditious conspiracy. She has also been charged with conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, entering and remaining in a restricted building, and tampering with documents.
Watkins faces decades in jail. The sedition charge carries a maximum of 20 years.
Watkins's first trial begins January 31, and then she has another trial scheduled for April 19.