2 Champaign County residents held on federal charges tied to Capitol riot

A man and woman held on preliminary unspecified federal charges in the Montgomery County Jail are connected to a riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, federal investigators allege.

Jessica Watkins, 38, and Donovan Crowl, 50, both of Champaign County, were booked into the Montgomery County Jail just before 2 a.m. Monday, according to jail records. The U.S. Department of Justice is listed as the arresting agency.

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Crowl and Watkins each face three charges for a restricted building or grounds violation, violent entry or disorderly conduct and obstruction of an official proceeding, according to a criminal complaint filed Saturday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Affidavits filed in U.S. District Court identified Crowl and Watkins as members of a paramilitary organization known as the Oath Keepers that was among the individuals and groups that forcibly entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 when it was closed to the public while Congress met to certify Electoral College votes for the 2020 presidential election.

Watkins said on her Parler social media account that she is commanding officer of the Ohio State Regular Militia, based in Champaign County, the court records say. Crowl also is a member the group, which was identified as a dues-paying subset of the Oath Keepers, the affidavit states.

Photographs and videos of the breach on the Capitol building appear to show Crowl and Watkins outside and inside the building, according to the court documents.

“Media accounts helped to identify one of the Oath Keepers who forcibly entered the U.S. Capitol to be Crowl,” in addition to photographs of Crowl shown outside and inside the Capitol, the affidavit says.

Watkins was identified in a video when FBI investigators compared other video footage and photos of Watkins, the court documents say, including one from the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Watkins posted one photo of herself on Parler with the statement: “Me before forcing entry into the Capitol Building.” Watkins also reportedly posted a video to Parler and wrote, ”Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today. Teargassed the whole, 9. Pushed our way into the Rotunda. Made it into the Senate even. The news is lying (even Fox) about the Historical Events we created today,” according to the court documents.

A video shared Sunday morning on Facebook shows vehicles with flashing lights outside a home the poster says is in Woodstock, Ohio. A man is overheard on a loudspeaker saying, “Jessica Watkins this is the FBI with a warrant. Come to the back door with your hands up and empty.”

It is not clear whether Watkins was arrested at that time or later turned herself in. A spokesman for the FBI in Cincinnati confirmed that the agency on Sunday morning “conducted court-authorized law enforcement activity in that area” but did not provide additional details. He referred questions to the bureau’s Washington, D.C., field office.

A representative of the local U.S. Attorney’s Office also referred questions to the Washington, D.C., office. Neither national office would comment.

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The court documents also cited two media interviews of Crowl and Watkins last week.

The New Yorker reported last week a 50-year-old former Marine and Ohio resident named Donovan Crowl was identified by family members in photographs at the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A friend also told the publication that Crowl had shared plans about traveling from Ohio to Washington, D.C., to protest President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

The New Yorker also reported that a 38-year-old Ohioan and bar owner Jessica Watkins identified herself as the commanding officer of a state militia and on social media posted a photo of Crowl in tactical gear with the caption. “One of my guys at the Stop the Steal Rally today.”

The Ohio Capitol Journal previously reported this month that Watkins is a Champaign County woman who joined a self-identified militia at the U.S. Capitol when protests turned into a riot on Jan. 6. The woman told the Ohio Capitol Journal that she did not destroy any property and that she and three others in the militia tried to stop anyone from destroying property.