Prosecutors say Oath Keepers likely stored January 6 weapons at suburban Virginia hotel

oath keepers jessica watkins january 6 capitol riot siege insurrection
Jessica Marie Watkins (2nd from L) and Donovan Ray Crowl (Center), both from Ohio, march down the east front steps of the U.S. Capitol with the Oath Keepers militia group among supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. Both have since been indicted by federal authorities for their roles in the siege on the U.S. Capitol. Picture taken January 6, 2021.

  • Prosecutors say alleged Oath Keepers stored weapons in a “quick reaction force” outside of DC ahead of January 6.
  • In a new filing, they say members of the paramilitary group likely stashed weapons in a suburban hotel.
  • Twelve alleged Oath Keepers are defendants in a high-profile conspiracy case tied to the attack.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right paramilitary group involved in the January 6 Capitol insurrection, likely stored a cache of weapons in a suburban hotel outside of Washington, DC, in the lead-up to the riot, federal prosecutors say.

In a late Monday filing, prosecutors provided details for the first time on the alleged “quick reaction force” or “QRF” of stored weaponry outside of DC that they have claimed members of the Oath Keepers compiled ahead of the attack as part of their preparations for the possibility of even more violence.

Until the most recent filing, prosecutors had provided little evidence of the QRF’s existence, according to Politico. Despite Oath Keeper messages indicating the existence of a cache of weapons, Judge Amit Mehta, who is presiding over the group’s conspiracy case, has repeatedly pressed prosecutors for proof that the QRF actually existed.

Now, prosecutors say they have evidence that members of the Oath Keepers – 12 of whom are defendants in a high-profile conspiracy case tied to the insurrection – used a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia, to store weapons ahead of January 6.

Monday’s filing is in part, an effort to deny pretrial release to alleged Oath Keeper Kenneth Harrelson, who prosecutors say can be seen in a photograph from the Comfort Inn on January 7, carrying what looks to be a weapon inside the hotel.

According to court documents, Harrelson texted a group chat on January 5 asking for the “QRF hotel address.” Another alleged Oath Keeper and defendant, Kelly Meggs, reportedly responded and told Harrelson to direct message him.

Prosecutors say about three hours after sending the text inquiring about the QRF location, Harrelson arrived at the Comfort Inn, where he stayed for about an hour, before driving to Washington, DC.

Cell phone data shows that Harrelson spent the rest of January 5, all of January 6, and the morning of January 7, in downtown DC. Meggs and other known Oath Keepers rented multiple rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn in Washington, DC, where prosecutors say Harrelson spent the nights of January 5 and 6.

Prosecutors say it is “reasonable to believe” that Harrelson dropped his weapons off at the QRF at the Arlington Comfort Inn on January 5, then picked them up again on January 7, after asking in a group chat about the location of his “s—” the day after the siege. Another member responded by asking Harrelson if he had left it in the “Comfort Inn in that room.”

“Indeed, surveillance video from the Comfort Inn shows what appears to be Defendant Harrelson rolling what appears to be at least one rifle case down a hallway and towards the elevator,” on the morning of January 7, prosecutors wrote in Monday’s filing.

Screen Shot 2021 04 13 at 3.07.56 PM
Surveillance video from the Comfort Inn shows what appears to be Defendant Harrelson rolling what appears to be at least one rifle case down a hallway and towards the elevator.

Harrelson and other alleged Oath Keeper members who have appeared in court have pleaded not guilty, according to CNN.

Judge Mehta has kept some of the members in jail awaiting their trials, while releasing others because he said they didn’t pose an ongoing danger to the community, CNN reported.

Prosecutors have been fixated on proving the existence of the QRF, in part, to convince the judge that the defendants pose a more significant threat than the majority of their fellow Capitol rioters. Prosecutors have also been eager to disprove claims by the Oath Keeper’s defense attorneys that the group’s planning was actually about guarding against violence by antifa, and not storming the capitol, Politico reported.

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‘Oath Keeper’ Jessica Watkins denounced the extremist group but will stay in jail before her trial, judge says

oath keepers jessica watkins january 6 capitol riot siege insurrection
Jessica Marie Watkins (2nd from L) and Donovan Ray Crowl (Center), both from Ohio, march down the east front steps of the U.S. Capitol with the Oath Keepers militia group among supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. Both have since been indicted by federal authorities for their roles in the siege on the U.S. Capitol. Picture taken January 6, 2021.

  • Jessica Watkins is charged with conspiracy over her role in the deadly January 6 Capitol siege.
  • On Friday, a federal judge rejected Watkin’s request to await her impending trial in home detention.
  • In court, Watkins denounced the far-right extremist group she has been linked to, according to CNN.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

On Friday, a federal judge ruled that a member of a far-right militia group who stormed the US Capitol building will remain in jail after she petitioned to be released over safety concerns.

Jessica Watkins, an alleged ‘Oath Keeper’ charged with conspiring to attack the US Capitol building on January 6, made her first public comments since her arrest last month in a court hearing on Friday, where she denounced the extremist organization and said she was “humbled” and “humiliated” by the charges against her according to CNN.

But Watkins, who said she’d been “treated harshly” and is at “particular risk in custody” because she is transgender, will not get to await her trial in home detention, federal Judge Amit Mehta of the DC District Court decided.

Mehta told Watkins directly that he believes there is a continued risk that she will reaffiliate herself with anti-government extremist groups if released. He said Watkins “presents a danger” and eagerly participated in “a historic event that was a real threat to the fabric of our democracy,” according to the outlet. 

jessica watkins oath keepers militia jail headshot
This undated photo provided by the Montgomery County Jail shows Jessica Watkins. Watkins and Donovan Crowl, both from Ohio, are being held at a county jail in Dayton, after being arrested Monday,Jan. 18, 2021. Watkins and Crowl, two self-described militia members, are facing federal charges that they participated in the assault on the U.S. Capitol earlier this month.

The 38-year-old Watkins told the judge she is “canceling” her Oath Keepers membership.

“Given the result of everything on January 6 and everything that has come out…. my fellow Oath Keepers have turned my stomach against it. Which is why I’m canceling my Oath Keeper membership,” Watkins reportedly said during the court hearing. “I have no desire to continue with people who say things like that.”

She apologized to the court and said she was not a “criminally minded person,” CNN said.

Court filings suggest that Watkins and other members of the Oath Keepers spent months planning their attack on the Capitol.

In a series of text messages obtained by prosecutors, Watkins and other Oath Keepers appear to detail extensive plans to storm Congress. They may have been planning the attack as early as November.

“It is our duty as Americans to fight, kill and die for our rights,” Watkins texted a contact on November 17.

The court documents also said Watkins personally trained recruits to prepare them for the attack. 

Authorities believe Watkins to be the leader of the Ohio State Regular Militia, a far-right group that has overlapping membership with other Oath Keepers, Insider reported earlier this week. She is a former Army ranger, Afghanistan war veteran, and volunteer firefighter.

Watkins told the court she would be shutting down the Ohio State Regular Militia to focus on running a bar she owns in the state.

“We’re done with that lifestyle,” Watkins reportedly said. “I have a struggling small business. I did it out of love for my country, but I think it’s time to let that all go and focus on my business.”

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An Oath Keepers leader arrested for participating in the Capitol riot said she met with Secret Service and was providing ‘security’ to legislators and other key figures

oath keepers jessica watkins january 6 capitol riot siege insurrection
Jessica Marie Watkins (2nd from L) and Donovan Ray Crowl (Center), both from Ohio, march down the east front steps of the U.S. Capitol with the Oath Keepers militia group among supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. Both have since been indicted by federal authorities for their roles in the siege on the U.S. Capitol. Picture taken January 6, 2021.

  • Jessica Watkins of the far-right militia Oath Keepers said she was protecting legislators during the Capitol riot. 
  • In new court filings, lawyers say Watkins met with Secret Service agents. 
  • The US Secret Service told Insider “any assertion that the Secret Service employed private citizens to perform those functions is false.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A woman arrested for her alleged participation in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol said she was at the riot to provide security to legislators and other important people and had met with Secret Service agents. 

In new court filings this weekend, lawyers for Jessica Watkins, a leader with the far-right, anti-government militia group Oath Keepers, argued that Watkins was not a participant in the insurrection but was instead working security to speakers at former President Donald Trump’s rally that preceded the insurrection that left five people dead, CNN first reported.  

“On January 5 and 6, Ms. Watkins was present not as an insurrectionist, but to provide security to the speakers at the rally, to provide escort for the legislators and others to march to the Capitol as directed by the then-President, and to safely escort protestors away from the Capitol to their vehicles and cars at the conclusion of the protest,” the Saturday court filing said.

“She was given a VIP pass to the rally,” it continued. “She met with Secret Service agents. She was within 50 feet of the stage during the rally to provide security for the speakers. At the time the Capitol was breached, she was still at the sight of the initial rally where she had provided security.”

In a statement to Insider, a spokesperson US Secret Service said it did not employ the assistance of any private citizens on January 6.

“To carry out its protective functions on January 6th, the U.S. Secret Service relied on the assistance of various government partners,” the statement said. “Any assertion that the Secret Service employed private citizens to perform those functions is false.”

In the filing, attorneys for Watkins, who has been jailed since mid-January, said she believed Trump would evoke the Insurrection Act and use the US Military to stop President Biden from assuming office. Her lawyer said she and others  “would have a role” in assisting the former president in his attempt to remain in office.  

“However misguided, her intentions were not in any way related to an intention to overthrow the government but to support what she believed to be the lawful government,” Watkins’ attorney Michelle Peterson. “She took an oath to support the Constitution and had no intention of violating that oath or of committing any violent acts.”

As Insider reported Friday, nine members of the far-right Oath Keepers have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct Congress with the January 6 riot. Three, including Watkins, had previously been charged, but six new charges were announced by the Justice Department on Friday. 

Prosecutors said in the indictment Friday the defendants planned to besiege the Capitol as early as November 3 and coordinated plans on social media for weeks beforehand the insurrection in DC.

Watkins, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, also this weekend petitioned for release on safety grounds due to her treatment as a transgender woman. She claimed she was “treated harshly” and is at “particular risk in custody” because she is transgender.

So far, more than 250 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection

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Transgender Oath Keeper petitions for release from jail following charges relating to the Capitol siege, reportedly citing safety fears

jessica watkins oath keepers militia jail headshot
This undated photo provided by the Montgomery County Jail shows Jessica Watkins. Watkins and Donovan Crowl, both from Ohio, are being held at a county jail in Dayton, after being arrested Monday, January 18, 2021.

  • Jessica Watkins, an Oath Keeper, was arrested in January and charged with conspiring to storm the Capitol.
  • She has petitioned to be released from jail and for the courts to consider home detention.
  • Watkins believes she is at “particular risk” as a transgender woman, BuzzFeed News reported.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A member of a far-right militia who stormed the US Capitol building has petitioned to be released from jail due to safety concerns relating to her being transgender, according to BuzzFeed News.

Jessica Watkins, an Oath Keeper, charged with conspiring to attack the US Capitol building on January 6, filed for release pending trial on Saturday.

She alleged that she has been “treated harshly” and is at “particular risk in custody” because she is transgender, BuzzFeed News reported.

Watkins also argued that she is no threat to the public, the media outlet said.

The 38-year-old has been held in at least two facilities, including in the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio. It is not clear where she is currently being held.

She is asking for the court to release her and instead consider home detention.

In a legal document seen by BuzzFeed, Watkins alleged that she had been mistreated in an Ohio county jail.

She claims that she was stripped naked and left “in a cell with lights on 24 hours a day for 4 days in full view of everyone,” according to her attorney.

This was in response to a hunger strike that the Oath Keeper went on in a bid to get treatment for an arm injury, the media outlet reported.

Authorities believe Watkins to be the leader of the Ohio State Regular Militia, a far-right group that shares members with the Oath Keepers.

Watkins was arrested on January 18. She was indicted a week later on charges related to her activity in the insurrection.

Jessica Watkins social media posts
The selfie with Watkins and Crowl inside the Capitol rotunda and a Parler post from Watkins. Both were included in a court filing from federal prosecutors.

Watkins was pictured storming the Capitol building on January 6. She also confirmed that she stormed the building on Parler, taking a selfie in the building’s rotunda.

“Me before forcing entry into the Capitol Building,” she posted on Parler. “#stopthesteal #stormthecapitol #oathkeepers #ohiomilitia.”

Court filings from prosecutors against Watkins suggest that the Oath Keepers had spent months planning their attack on the Capitol.

A series of text messages obtained by the prosecutors suggest that extensive plans to storm Congress might have started in November.

“It is our duty as Americans to fight, kill and die for our rights,” Watkins texted a contact on November 17.

“We need to go underground if this coup works,” she texted a few days later.

Watkins also personally trained recruits to prepare them for the deadly siege, prosecutors said.

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Members of the far-right militia group, the Oath Keepers, used Facebook Messenger during the Capitol siege to hunt for lawmakers, FBI says

capitol siege breach
Smoke fills the corridor outside the Senate Chamber as rioters are confronted by police on January 6, 2021.

Thomas Edward Caldwell, leader of the far-right militia group Oath Keepers, has been accused by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of coordinating an effort to track down lawmakers during the siege of the US Capitol building.

Caldwell, 66, is cited with leading the effort to locate members of Congress, according to The Washington Post.

Two others, Donovan Ray Crowl and Jessica Marie Watkins, are also accused of having conspired with the Navy veteran, The Post reported.

Caldwell is said to have received Facebook messages updating him of the specific whereabouts of lawmakers while congressional offices were being ransacked, according to a sworn affidavit included in court filings obtained by the George Washington University Program on Extremism.

Read more: I went inside the US Capitol’s immense security bubble to cover the most surreal presidential inauguration of my lifetime. Here’s what I saw.

One message, the FBI said, read: “All members are in the tunnels under capitol. Seal them in, turn on the gas.”

While raiding the Capitol, Caldwell shared a post on Facebook. He simply wrote: “Inside.” After this, the intelligence agency said that he received a flurry of messages from unspecified senders.

“Tom take that b**** over,” read one message.

“Tom, all legislators are down in the Tunnels 3 floors down,” said another.

Some of the messages gave very specific directions about the locations of lawmakers. “Go through back house chamber doors facing N left down hallway down steps,” court documents reveal of one message.

“Do like we had to do when I was in the core, start tearing out floors, go from top to bottom,” another is reported to have said.

The day after the insurrection, Caldwell sent a text to Crowl. It read: “Do you like the pictures of us storming the castle?”

Caldwell was arrested earlier this week on several charges, including conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and conspiracy to impede or injure an officer.

It was the first conspiracy charge filed against any of the rioters, according to the Daily Beast.

The investigation into the insurrection is underway but Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that “a very considerable amount” of lawmakers “still don’t feel safe.”

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