Area woman charged in Capitol riot part of Oath Keepers trial this week

Jessica Watkins of Champaign County faces charges with 8 other people in Washington D.C.

A Champaign County woman charged in connection to the U.S. Capitol breach is set to appear for a jury trial this week.

Jessica Watkins of Woodstock is charged with seditious conspiracy and other crimes in connection to the Jan. 6, 2021, Washington D.C. Capitol riot. Authorities say protesters who supported then-President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct Congress from certifying the election of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

ExploreChampaign County woman charged with seditious conspiracy for US Capitol actions

Watkins faces charges with eight other people -- including the founder of the Oath Keepers, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III. Prosecutors have said the Oath Keepers is a “large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias” and some believe the federal government has been co-opted by elites trying to strip Americans of their rights.

Watkins has remained in custody since her arrest in early 2021. She co-owned a bar called the Jolly Roger in the small village of Woodstock in northeast Champaign County. Authorities said Watkins led the “Ohio team of Oath Keepers” during the Jan. 6 riot and used the moniker “Captain” or “Cap.”

She will go before a jury along with four other defendants in the case and the trial is expected to last five weeks. Jury selection is set to begin Tuesday, court records say.

A request for comment sent to Watkins’ defense attorney Jonathan Crisp wasn’t returned Monday. No public access will be made for people outside of Washington D.C. to listen to the trial.

An indictment in the case accuses Watkins of being in communication with other defendants before and on Jan. 6 and that she marched with others up the steps and into the Capitol during the breach. After entering the Capitol, the indictment says Watkins was a part of a group that tried to enter the Senate chambers before being repelled by police. It says others attempted to find House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but were unsuccessful.

The indictment says Watkins and other defendants gathered outside of the Capitol after the riot.

Defense attorneys for Watkins and other defendants who will appear in court Tuesday filed a motion on Friday again asking a judge to change the venue of the trial that is set to take place in Washington D.C. In the 14-page filing, the attorneys argue that sworn responses from the majority of the potential jurors show they have a bias against the defendants. The judge had previously rejected a request to move the trial but had not ruled on the new motion Monday morning.

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The seditious conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, the DOJ said, but if there is a conviction, a judge will consider the federal sentencing guidelines and other factors before making a ruling. Legal experts have said that charging a person with seditious conspiracy is very rare.

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