Jessica Watkins is a veteran and bar owner from Woodstock, Ohio who the FBI alleges helped plot a storm on the U.S. Capitol and said she was waiting for former President Donald Trump’s instructions before taking action. Watkins was one of nine people who were members of the right-wing paramilitary group, Oath Keepers, named in a superseding indictment January 19, 2021. The “team leader” was Kelly Meggs, FBI agents said.
Watkins, 38, turned herself into authorities in January. The U.S. Department of Justice announced additional arrests Friday, February 19, 2021, saying Watkins, Meggs and seven other people were arrested, naming them as members of the group. Watkins was arrested in January. Meggs, 52, was arrested in Ocala, Florida following the filing of a superseding indictment. Also charged were Graydon Young, 54, of Englewood, Florida, Kelly Meggs’ wife, Connie Meggs, 59, of Dunnellon, Florida, Laura Steele, 52, of Thomasville, North Carolina, Sandra Ruth Parker, 62, and Bennie Alvin Parker, 70, both of Morrow, Ohio. Young was arrested Monday in Tampa, Florida, Connie Meggs was arrested along with Kelly Meggs Wednesday in Ocala, Steele was arrested Wednesday in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Parkers were arrested Thursday. The indictment details evidence of the group’s plot and text messages between its members.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Watkins Said She Was ‘Waiting Direction From President Trump’ on How to Proceed As Biden’s Inauguration Drew Closer
Watkins had some hesitancy about her plans as the inauguration of President Joe Biden drew closer, and said she wanted clear direction from then-President Donald Trump before she took action, prosecutor’s wrote in a court filing in support of her detention.
A text she wrote November 9, 2020 said, “I am concerned this is an elaborate trap. Unless the POTUS himself activates us, it’s not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units too. If Trump asks me to come, I will. Otherwise, I can’t trust it.”
Prosecutors continued in the court filing, “Watkins had perceived her desired signal by the end of December. In a text exchange with Co-defendant Donovan Crowl on December 29, 2020, she informed, ‘[w]e plan on going to DC on the 6th’ because ‘Trump wants all able bodied Patriots to come,’ and how, ‘[i]f Trump activates the Insurrection Act, I’d hate to miss it.’
2. One of the Group Members Talked With Watkins About ‘Joining Her Militia’ & ‘Combining Forces,’ Federal Officials Said
Prosecutors said that Parker spoke with Watkins “extensively” about “potentially joining her militia and combining forces for the events of January 6,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
All nine people named in the superseding indictment are charged in federal court in Washington, DC “for conspiring to obstruct the United States Congress’s certification of the result of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election,” the U.S. District Attorney’s Office said.
They were all charged with one count of conspiring to commit an offense against the United States “to corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding.” Bennie Parker and Caldwell were also charged with obstructing an investigation for allegedly deleting incriminating Facebook content.
3. The Oath Keepers Is a Militia Group Whose Members Believe Conspiracy Theories About Rights Being Stripped Away
Federal agents described the Oath Keepers as a “large but loosely organized collection of militia that believe the federal government has been coopted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights,” the criminal complaint filed in the case says.
It goes onto say the group focuses on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement and first responders, and that the name refers to the oath sworn by military and and police to defend the U.S. Constitution “from all enemies foreign and domestic.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Oath Keepers as a large extremist group.
“The Oath Keepers, which claims tens of thousands of present and former law enforcement officials and military veterans as members, is one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the U.S. today,” the Southern Poverty Law Center writes. “While it claims only to be defending the Constitution, the entire organization is based on a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans.”
4. Watkins Runs a Bar in Her Small Ohio Town Named ‘Jolly Roger’
Watkins runs a bar in Woodstock, Ohio called Jolly Roger. She is known in her village for the bar and for a small militia-style group she helped form with her boyfriend in case of a tornado, according to CNN.
Her boyfriend, Montana Siniff, was home when authorities came to arrest Watkins, but she was away. He disputed some of the allegations lodged against her.
Siniff told CNN his girlfriend went to the Capitol to “help protect some Trump VIP members within the rally,” but he did not know who they were planning to protect.
5. Watkins Served in the U.S. Army & Was Deployed to Afghanistan in 2002
Watkins is an Army veteran, and she was deployed to Afghanistan from September to December 2002, CNN reported. She served in the army under a different name from April 2001 to December 2003.
Watkins described the breach of the Capitol in an interview with the Ohio Capital Journal.
“To me, it was the most beautiful thing I ever saw until we started hearing glass smash,” she said. “That’s when we knew things had gotten really bad.”