Capitol riot: Judge to rule if Champaign County woman will stay in jail

A Champaign County woman charged with planning and taking part in the Jan. 6 Washington D.C. Capitol riot was ordered back into court next week to determine whether she will remain in jail pending trial.

Jessica Watkins, 38, will be in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia Feb. 23 for the hearing. She appeared in United States District Court of the District of Columbia on Tuesday for a status conference.

Watkins is charged along with fellow Champaign County resident Donovan Crowl, 50, and Virginia resident Thomas Caldwell, 66, with conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property and unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds.

During the status conference, lawyers told U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta that Watkins was arraigned Friday. The judge also took the hearing to notify prosecutors of their duty to hand over any exculpatory evidence to the defense.

The indictment filed in the case alleges the three were co-conspirators who planned to disrupt the Congressional proceedings to certify the presidential election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The indictment also alleges the three acted on those plans and illegally entered the Capitol grounds.

The government also argued that the three were members of the Oath Keepers, a loosely organized group of militia members who believe “the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.” Caldwell has denied being associated with the Oath Keepers.

The indictment and subsequent court filings by prosecutors also allege that Watkins was responsible for trainings leading up to the Jan. 6 incident. They allege that Watkins told recruits that if then President-Elect Biden became president, their way of life would be over and it was their duty to fight, kill and die for their rights.

Along with the hearing next week, Watkins was ordered to appear back in court on March 12 when Caldwell is due. The judge said he hoped to get the three defendants on the same case scheduled as soon as possible.

Crowl is the only defendant that hasn’t appeared before Mehta now. Prosecutors said during the Watkins hearing that Crowl is expected to be brought to the D.C. area but there was no update to the timeline for when that might happen.

Crowl is currently incarcerated in the Butler County Jail.

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