Capitol riot: Prosecutors say Champaign County woman’s training included ‘war games’

Federal prosecutors said in a court document Thursday that “2 days of war games” were part of the training that a Champaign County woman charged in connection to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was responsible for.

The prosecutors also said that Jessica Watkins, 38, indicated that she was awaiting direction from President Donald Trump before the Jan. 6 riot.

Documents said: “Her concern about taking action without his backing was evident in a November 9, 2020, text in which she stated, ‘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.’ “

Watkins had perceived her desired signal by the end of December, prosecutors said.

“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.”

In the 21-page filing asking a judge to keep Watkins in jail pending trial, prosecutors said that she had a “single-minded devotion to obstruct through violence an official proceeding that, on January 6, was designed to confirm the next President of the United States.”

Prosecutors said she wore camouflaged battle fatigues, a tactical vest emblazoned with an Oath Keepers patch, combat boots, military-grade helmet, and radio equipment.

“Watkins and her fellow Oath Keepers militia members were among those hundreds of insurgents who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. But unlike the vast majority, Watkins had trained and plotted for a moment like this,” the government said.

The government said that Watkins told co-conspirators that she was with a group of about 30-40 people and they were “sticking to the plan.”

”Moments after the Vice President of the United States, Senators, and staff were hurriedly evacuated in the midst of certifying the results of the 2020 Presidential election, that plan became chillingly clear when an unknown male instructed over the channel, “You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud.”

Watkins, 38, Donovan Crowl, 50, both of Champaign County, and Thomas Edward Caldwell, 66, of Virginia, are facing charges of conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property and unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds in United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

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 who believes “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.

In the government’s memorandum, prosecutors described Watkins alleged actions before Jan. 6.

“To the same recruit, Watkins wrote that, ‘Basic Training is mandatory … I need you fighting fit by inauguration.’ Watkins emphasized this point to another recruit on October 26, 2020, noting, ‘the election is imminent. We do have Basic Training/FRX coming up in January though … others who join before then without experience will be REQUIRED to attend for the full week. Donovan already has his Drill Sergeant mode going haha. The rest of us will be training with them to get us all field-ready before inauguration,’” the memorandum says. “This training included ‘2 days of wargames’ incorporated into a larger ‘combat’ training for ‘urban warfare, riot control, and rescue operations.’

The U.S. Army said Watkins served under the name Jeremy David Watkins as an infantryman in the U.S. Army from April 2001 to December 2003, including time in Afghanistan, an Army spokesman said.

Donovan Crowl served in the U.S. Marine Corps from June 1988 to March 1993, leaving at the rank of corporal, according to Pentagon officials. He was a helicopter mechanic and served in the Persian Gulf in September 1990, officials said.

In their memorandum filed Thursday, prosecutors also described Watkins’ actions after she allegedly entered the Capitol.

“For Watkins, this was a moment to relish in the swirling violence in the air,” the court document says, “After marching to the Capitol in a para-military “stack” tactical formation, penetrating the building through a door breached by insurgents, and pushing past a law enforcement officer engulfed by the swelling crowd, Watkins gleefully exclaimed over the channel, “We are in the mezzanine. We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paint balls. But we are in here.” ”

Prosecutors also argued in the filing that Watkins is still a danger to the community.

“The profoundly brazen nature of Watkins’s participation in the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol was uniquely dangerous and continues to impact security in the District and beyond. Watkins joined a violent mob that overwhelmed law enforcement and destroyed government property, re-creating in modern times events not seen in this nation since the War of 1812. In this backdrop, Watkins and her co-conspirators 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.”

Watkins was originally booked into the Montgomery County Jail after her arrest in January. She was then transferred to the Butler County Jail and is now no longer listed as an inmate in a local jail.

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