2 more Oath Keepers sentenced for J6 riot day after Rhodes gets record-setting prison term

  • Two Army veterans and Oath Keepers who stormed the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021 — Jessica Watkins and Kenneth Harrelson — have been sentenced to 8½ years and 4 years in prison, respectively.
  • Watkins and Harrelson have been sentenced only one day after Oath Keepers chief Stewart Rhodes was handed down an 18-year prison sentence — the longest for any convicted Jan. 6 participant to date.
  • “I have totally demolished my life,” a tearful Harrelson stated in courtroom. “I am responsible, and my foolish actions have caused immense pain to my wife and our children.”

Two Army veterans who stormed the U.S. Capitol in a military-style formation with fellow members of the Oath Keepers have been sentenced Friday to prison phrases, a day after the far-right extremist group’s founder acquired a record-setting 18-years behind bars within the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Jessica Watkins, of Woodstock, Ohio, to eight years and 6 months behind bars and sentenced Kenneth Harrelson, of Titusville, Florida, to 4 years in prison.

A federal jury acquitted Watkins and Harrelson of the seditious conspiracy cost that Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was discovered responsible of in November. But jurors convicted Watkins and Harrelson of different Jan. 6 costs, together with obstructing Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.


Rhodes’ 18-year term is the longest prison sentence that has been handed down to date within the a whole bunch of Capitol riot instances. The costs towards leaders of the Oath Keepers and one other extremist group, the Proud Boys, are among the many most critical introduced within the Justice Department’s large investigation of the riot.

Mehta agreed with the Justice Department that Rhodes and the opposite Oath Keepers’ actions might be punished as “terrorism,” growing the beneficial sentence beneath federal pointers.

But the decide finally gave Watkins and Harrelson far much less time than prosecutors have been in search of. The Justice Department had requested 18 years for Watkins and 15 for Harrelson.

Watkins and Harrelson marched towards the Capitol with different Oath Keepers members in “stack” formations as a mob of Trump supporters clashed with outnumbered law enforcement officials. Harrelson was the group’s “ground team lead” on Jan. 6. Watkins, who fashioned a separate Ohio-based militia group, recruited others to affix the Oath Keepers in Washington that day.

Mehta stated that whereas Watkins was not a high chief, like Rhodes, she was more than only a “foot soldier,” noting that at the least three others charged within the riot wouldn’t have been there if she hadn’t recruited them to affix.

“Your role that day was more aggressive, more assaultive, more purposeful than perhaps others,” he advised her.

Watkins tearfully apologized for her actions earlier than the decide handed down her sentence. She condemned the violence by rioters who assaulted police, however conceded that her presence on the Capitol “probably inspired those people to a degree.” She described herself as “just another idiot running around the Capitol” on Jan. 6.

“And today you’re going to hold this idiot responsible,” she advised the decide.


FILE – This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers chief Stewart Rhodes and 4 others charged with seditious conspiracy within the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol assault, in Washington, Oct. 6, 2022. Shown above are, witness John Zimmerman, who was a part of the Oath Keepers North Carolina Chapter, seated within the witness stand, defendant Thomas Caldwell, of Berryville, Va., seated entrance row left, Oath Keepers chief Stewart Rhodes, seated second left with an eye fixed patch, defendant Jessica Watkins, of Woodstock, Ohio, seated third from proper, Kelly Meggs, of Dunnellon, Fla., seated second from proper, and defendant Kenneth Harrelson, of Titusville, Fla., seated at proper. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy is proven in blue standing at proper earlier than U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta. U.S. Army veterans Watkins and Harrelson are scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, May 26, 2023 (Dana Verkouteren through AP) (Dana Verkouteren through AP)

The decide stated Watkins’ private story of struggling for years to come back to phrases together with her identification as a transgender girl made it particularly tough for him to know why she has proven “a lack of empathy for those who suffered” on Jan. 6. Watkins testified at trial about hiding her identification from her dad and mom throughout a strict Christian upbringing and going AWOL within the Army after a fellow soldier discovered proof of her contact with a assist group for transgender individuals.

Harrelson advised the decide he went to Washington after one other Oath Keeper provided him a “security job,” however stated he has by no means voted for a president in his life and doesn’t care about politics. Some of the Oath Keepers supplied safety for Trump ally Roger Stone and different right-wing figures at occasions earlier than the riot.

“I have totally demolished my life,” he stated as he broke down in tears. “I am responsible, and my foolish actions have caused immense pain to my wife and our children.”

Mehta stated he doesn’t agree with the federal government’s portrayal of Harrelson as a “mid-level organizer” for the Oath Keepers. Unlike many different group members charged within the assault, Harrelson didn’t ship any messages “that anyone would consider extremist,” the decide stated.

But the decide stated he was struck by a picture of Harrelson patting down a police officer on his manner out of the Capitol.

“You weren’t just there that day because you got swept in,” the decide advised him.

During a virtually two-month trial in Washington’s federal courtroom, attorneys for Watkins and the opposite Oath Keepers argued there was no plan to assault the Capitol. On the witness stand, Watkins advised jurors she by no means supposed to intervene with the certification and by no means heard any instructions for her and different Oath Keepers to enter the constructing.

Evidence proven to jurors confirmed Watkins after the 2020 election messaging with individuals who expressed curiosity in becoming a member of her Ohio militia group about “military-style basic” coaching. She advised one recruit, “I need you fighting fit” by the inauguration, which was Jan. 20, 2021.


On Jan. 6, Watkins and different Oath Keepers carrying helmets and different paramilitary gear have been seen shouldering their manner by means of the group and up the Capitol stairs in military-style stack formation. She communicated with others throughout the riot over a channel known as “Stop the Steal J6” on the walkie-talkie app Zello, declaring, “We are in the main dome right now.”

Harrelson screamed “Treason!” — an epithet directed at members of Congress — as he entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, a prosecutor stated.

One of their different co-defendants, Florida chapter chief Kelly Meggs, was sentenced Thursday to 12 years behind bars for seditious conspiracy and different costs.

Rhodes, 58, of Granbury, Texas, was the primary Jan. 6 defendant convicted of seditious conspiracy to obtain his punishment for what prosecutors stated was a weekslong plot to forcibly block the switch of energy from former President Donald Trump to Biden. Four different Oath Keepers convicted of the sedition cost throughout a second trial in January shall be sentenced subsequent week.

During his sentencing Thursday, Rhodes defiantly claimed to be a “political prisoner,” criticized prosecutors and the Biden administration and tried to minimize his actions on Jan. 6. The decide described Rhodes as a continued menace to the United States who clearly “wants democracy in this country to devolve into violence.”

The Oath Keepers’ sentences this week might function a information for prosecutors in a separate Jan. 6 case towards leaders of the Proud Boys. Earlier this month, a special jury convicted former Proud Boys nationwide chairman Enrique Tarrio and three different group leaders of seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors stated was one other plot to maintain Trump within the White House.


Before Thursday, the longest sentence within the more than 1,000 Capitol riot instances was 14 years and two months for a person with a protracted legal document who attacked law enforcement officials with pepper spray and a chair as he stormed the Capitol. Just over 500 of the defendants have been sentenced, with more than half receiving prison time.

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