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A transgender woman arrested for storming the Capitol building on Jan. 6 is demanding to be released from jail for her own safety after she claimed she was stripped naked by law enforcement and left in her cell on full display.
38-year-old Jessica Watkins, who is part of anti-government extremist organization Oath Keepers, argued in the new court motion that she is at "particular risk in custody" because she is transgender. She asserted that she does not pose any threat and pleaded to go home on house arrest pending trial.
Watkins has been held in at least two facilities since her arrest mid-January, including the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio. She said that her time at the county jail in Ohio has been humiliating, LGBTQ Nation reported.
She cited an arm injury suffered while in detainment. When she was refused medical care, Watkins claimed, she went on hunger strike. In retaliation for her failed attempt to attract medical attention, she was stripped naked and left in her cell with lights on 24 hours per day for four days "in full view of everyone," Watkins alleged in the recent petition.
She is facing several serious charges in connection to her alleged involvement in the Capitol Hill riot when an unlawful pro-Trump mob breached federal property last month. She said that she was present at the time, because "she believed that the president of the United States was calling upon her."
Prosecutors maintained that Oath Keepers conspired to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, unlike some of the other rioters who were less organized and did not plan their actions ahead of the day's events.
While claiming to be in defense of the Constitution, the far-right paramilitary is "based on a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The network holds "tens of thousands of present and former law enforcement officials and combat veterans as members" as one of the largest radical groups in America today, the SPLC wrote.
According to her legal counsel's home detention motion filed late Saturday, she once served in Afghanistan as an Army ranger. Her attorney acknowledged that she was forced out of the military "after her sexual orientation was discovered." Watkins now runs the Jolly Roger bar in Woodstock, Ohio.
On Jan. 17, she surrendered herself to police, almost two weeks after the incident. She is alleged to have donned "full tactical gear" and joined the line of Oath Keepers who muscled their way into the Capitol building.
"Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today," Watkins wrote on Parler, the alternative social media app to Twitter that faced multiple Big Tech crackdowns in the wake of the January riot. "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," Watkin added in the alleged post.
She is also reported to have texted invitations post-Election Day to an Oath Keepers basic training event on Nov. 9 just after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 race, stating: "I need you fighting fit by innaugeration [sic]."
A grand jury has indicted Watkins and eight others associated with Oath Keepers on charges of descending upon the Capitol building in "an organized and practiced fashion" to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's election victory.
The prosecution suggested that Watkins, a dues-paying Oath Keepers affiliate and 2019 founder of the Ohio State Regular Militia, "was thus not an ancillary player who became swept up in the moment, but a key figure who put into motion the violence that overwhelmed the Capitol," Buzzfeed News reported. In addition to last week's filing to determine whether she should remain behind bars, prosecutors insisted that Watkins "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."
Her lawyer positioned her conduct as "misguided," contending that Watkins "did not vandalize anything" or "engage in any destruction of property" and in fact "encouraged others not to vandalize." Federal public defender Michelle Peterson added that Watkins has no history of violence and no prior convictions that warrant concern.
"[S]he believed she was supporting the Constitution and her government by providing security services at the rally organized by Mr. Trump and the Republican lawmakers who supported his goals," her petition stated.
Peterson pointed out that she drove almost eight hours to turn herself in when she learned that she was wanted for questioning. According to court papers, authorities were not even aware that she was wanted by law enforcement because her arrest warrant had not yet been entered into the national system.
The public defender also mentioned that while Watkins was in the Capitol, she spoke with police officers, followed their orders, and "participated in medical rescue operations for injured people during the event." For several years, Watkins was as a firefighter and emergency medical technician at her local fire department in Fayetteville, North Carolina.