U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Jessica Watkins, of Woodstock, Ohio, to eight years and six months in prison.

WOODSTOCK, Ohio – Two Army veterans who stormed the U.S. Capitol in military uniform with fellow Oath Keepers were sentenced to prison on Friday, a day after the far-right extremist group’s founder was sentenced a record 18 years behind bars during the attack on January 6, 2021.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Jessica Watkins, of Woodstock, Ohio, to eight years and six months behind bars and sentenced Kenneth Harrelson, of Titusville, Florida, to four years in prison.

Federal jury acquits Watkins and Harrelson of seditious conspiracy charge by Oath Keepers founder Stuart Rhodes found guilty in letter. But a jury found Watkins and Harrelson guilty on other charges on Jan. 6, including obstructing Congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

Rhodes’ 18-year sentence is the longest prison term handed down in hundreds of Capitol riot cases. The charges against leaders of the Oath Keepers and another extremist group, the Proud Boys, are among the most serious in the Justice Department’s sweeping investigation into the riots.

Mehta agreed with the Justice Department that the actions of Rhodes and other oath keepers could be punished as “terrorism,” increasing the recommended sentence under federal guidelines.

But the judge ended up giving Watkins and Harrelson far less time than prosecutors had requested. The Justice Department requested 18 years for Watkins and 15 for Harrelson.

Watkins and Harrelson marched toward the Capitol with other Oath Keepers in “stacks” as the crowd of Trump supporters clashed with outnumbered police. Harrelson was the “ground team leader” on January 6. Watkins, who had formed a separate police force in Ohio, recruited others to join the Oath Keepers in Washington that day.

Mehta said that while Watkins wasn’t a top leader like Rhodes, she was more than just a “foot soldier,” noting that at least three other people accused of rioting wouldn’t be there if she hadn’t recruited them to join.

“Your role that day was more aggressive, tougher, more focused than perhaps others,” he told her.

Watkins tearfully apologized for her actions before the judge handed down her sentence. She condemned the violence of the rioters who attacked the police, but acknowledged that her presence in the Capitol “probably inspired these people to some extent.” On Jan. 6, she called herself “just another idiot running around the Capitol.”

“And today you are going to bring that idiot to justice,” she told the judge.

The judge said Watkins’ personal history of struggling for years to come to terms with his identity as a transgender woman made it particularly difficult for him to understand why she showed a “lack of empathy for those affected” on January 6. Watkins testified in court about hiding her identity from her parents during a strict Christian upbringing and leaving the army after a fellow soldier found evidence of her contact with a transgender support group.

Harrelson told the judge he went to Washington after another juror offered him a “security job,” but said he had never voted for president in his life and didn’t care about politics. Some of the jurors provided security for Trump ally Roger Stone and other right-wing figures at events before the riot.

“I’ve completely ruined my life,” he said, crying. “I am responsible and my foolish actions have caused immense pain to my wife and our children.”

Mehta said he disagreed with the government’s portrayal of Harrelson as a “mid-level organizer” of Oath Keepers. Unlike many other members of the group accused of assault, Harrelson did not send any messages “that anyone would consider extremist,” the judge said.

But the judge said he was struck by the image of Harrelson patting a police officer as he exited the Capitol.

“You weren’t there that day just because you were taken,” the judge told him.

During the nearly two-month trial in federal court in Washington, attorneys for Watkins and other Oath Keepers argued that there was no plan to attack the Capitol. On the witness stand, Watkins told jurors that she never intended to interfere with the certification and never heard any commands for her or the other oath keepers to enter the building.

Evidence presented to jurors showed that after the 2020 election, Watkins exchanged messages with people who expressed interest in joining her militia group in Ohio about “military-style basic training.” Before the inauguration, which took place on January 20, 2021, she told one recruit, “I need you in combat uniform.”

On Jan. 6, Watkins and other oath keepers, wearing helmets and other paramilitary gear, were seen making their way through the crowd and up the Capitol steps in military style. She communicated with others during the riots through a channel called “Stop the Steal J6” on the Zello walkie-talkie app, declaring: “We’re in the main dome right now.”

Harrelson yelled “Treason!” — an epithet directed at members of Congress — when he entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, the prosecutor said.

One of the other defendants, Florida chapter leader Kelly Maggs, was sentenced Thursday to 12 years behind bars for seditious conspiracy and other charges.

Rhodes, 58, of Granbury, Texas, was the first defendant on Jan. 6 to be convicted of a seditious conspiracy to be sentenced for what prosecutors said was a week-long plan to forcibly block the transfer of power from former President Donald Trump to Biden. Four other oath-keepers were convicted a second trial in January will be sentenced next week.

During Thursday’s sentencing, Rhodes defiantly claimed to be a “political prisoner,” criticized prosecutors and the Biden administration and tried to downplay his actions on Jan. 6. The judge called Rhodes a continuing threat to the United States, which clearly “wanted democracy in this country to have turned to violence.”

The Oath Keepers’ verdicts this week could provide guidance for prosecutors in a separate case on Jan. 6 against the leaders of the Proud Boys. Earlier this month another jury found former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarillo guilty and three other ringleaders of a seditious conspiracy in what prosecutors called another conspiracy to keep Trump in the White House.

Until Thursday, the longest sentence in more than 1,000 Capitol riot cases was 14 years and two months for a man with a long criminal record who attacked police officers with pepper spray and a chair as he stormed the Capitol. A little more than 500 defendants were convicted, more than half received prison terms.

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