Jessica Watkins: Oath Keeper extremist charged over Capitol riots ‘at risk in custody’ because she is trans
Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins, charged for her involvement in the US Capitol Riots, fears for her safety because she is trans, her attorney said.
The Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government militia group, has been identified by federal prosecutors as among the most organised factions of rioters that seized the Capitol complex on 6 January.
Member Jessica Watkins, who is trans, turned herself in for her involvement in the insurrection and has since been detained in at least two facilities in Ohio, including Montgomery County Jail.
Her attorney claimed Saturday (20 February) that she has suffered a litany of abuse from law enforcement for being trans, which range from medical neglect to humiliation.
“As a transgender female, she is at risk of harsh treatment in custody,” public defender Michelle Peterson wrote in a motion for home detention, according to BuzzFeed News.
“Indeed, while in local custody, she was treated harshly.”
Watkins was “left naked in a cell with lights on 24 hours a day for four days in full view of everyone else”, the attorney continued. This was a response to a hunger strike she underwent as she sought medical attention for an injury to her arm.
“Instead of medical attention, she was stripped naked and put on suicide watch,” she added.
Peterson noted that Watkins, a former United States Army ranger who served in Afghanistan, was ousted from the military “after her sexual orientation was discovered”. No other details of this supposed ejection were given.
Jessica Watkins should be on home confinement as she voted for Barack Obama, says attorney.
In pleading for home detention, attorneys sought to paint Jessica Watkins as a do-gooder – a community firefighter, HIV activist and emergency medical technician. She voted for Barack Obama, they added, and has no prior convictions.
“She has no desire to resume militia activities, we have taken actions already to assuage the public and the courts of any danger she might arguably possess, and she wishes to ignore politics and focus on serving cocktails and cooking food, at a location simple for the government to monitor,” they said.
When she learned that the authorities wanted her in for questioning, she “drove nearly eight hours to turn herself into local police”.
Watkins is facing some of the most serious charges of misconduct for the deadly insurrection which saw an explosion of violence flood the opulent Congress corridors.
Five people died as some of Donald Trump’s most slavish and enraged supporters stormed the building in an effort to stymie Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
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A grand jury indicted Watkins and eight others associated with the Oath Keepers in what has become one of the largest conspiracy cases lodged by the Justice Department so far in connection to the riots.
The indictment claimed that the nine defendants worked together in advance of the brawl, with some working to undermine the results within a week of election day.
Investigators claim Watkins, a dues-paying member of the Oath Keepers, uploaded photographs and videos of herself in the Capitol during the riots.
She was no “ancillary player who became swept up in the moment, but a key figure who put into motion the violence that overwhelmed the Capitol.”
Watkins had “formed a subset of the most extreme insurgents that plotted then tried to execute a sophisticated plan to forcibly stop the results of a presidential election from taking effect.”
Her hearing at the Washington DC District Court will be held Tuesday (23 February).