An attorney for an Ohio militia member on charges of conspiracy rejected a controversial claim that Jessica Watkins met with U.S. intelligence about occupational safety for the January 6 rally for Donald Trump, before joining the Capitol riot participated.
The attorney’s original motion, filed over the weekend, raised questions about whether intelligence coordinated the rally’s security with paramilitary groups that later stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Federal authorities claim Watkins coordinated with a group of at least eight other people wearing tactical gear and helmets and marching into the Capitol militarily. Hundreds of rioters stormed the building, causing lawmakers to flee, leaving five people dead.
The Secret Service wasted no time in dismissing the original claim that it worked with Watkins or individuals on rally security. The agency said it relied only on support from government partners.
“Any claim that the secret service used private individuals to perform these tasks is false,” the agency said on Monday.
Watkins’ public defender later on Monday filed a “clarification” that the motion should never imply that Watkins had met with intelligence.
“A better verb would have been ‘encountered’,” says the motion. Agents at the check-in point for the rally’s VIP area told Watkins what she could and cannot do inside and told her to leave all of her tactical gear outside. The clarified motion states: “Ms. Watkins does not suggest that she know directly that her role as security has been sanctioned by anyone other than those involved in organizing the rally. “
Watkins is incarcerated in Washington DC on charges of conspiring with eight other people who are alleged to have participated in the Capitol riot. The FBI says they are members or members of the Oath Keepers, an extremist group that recruits former military officials, law enforcement agencies and first responders.
The original motion, which requested a hearing on the bond, said Watkins had gone to Washington DC to protect, not overthrow, the government. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday to see if she remains in custody.
In her offer for pre-trial freedom, Watkins said she was at the rally to keep speakers safe and had a VIP pass to Trump’s speech.
A pre-riot rally organizer for Trump on Jan. 6 denied Watkins’ claim in the amended motion that people involved in organizing the rally were collaborating with her group.
“There was no coordination with the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys in handling any kind of service,” said Dustin Stockton, part of the team that helped organize the rally on the Ellipse. Stockton also helped organize marches for Trump in November and December, saying they didn’t use the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys for those events either.
Although the Oath Keepers – and other groups – sometimes provide security for people and events, there is no official indication that their services were used that day at the Capitol or for the rally on the Ellipse near the White House.
None of the nine people charged in Watkins’ group appear on a list of licensed security guards in the District of Columbia. Additionally, the Oath Keepers organization is not listed as a security provider for the National Park Service to approve the rally.
Security experts, including officials from companies who attended the event or were contacted to host the event, questioned the possibility of an organizer employing volunteer security guards.
Stockton said they put volunteers on for other jobs, but not for security purposes. You would need to provide the secret service with dates of birth and social security numbers for the volunteers for review.
All private security guards for events with the secret service must also go through a similarly rigorous screening process, said the owners of two other security services, including a company that attended the rally and another company named on the permit that does not have security measures has seized the day.
Lyndon Brentnall, owner of Florida-based RMS security company, which was signed for the event at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, said he only used licensed professionals who were paid to run the event, and everyone had to be dated first Secret Service has been released since Trump spoke that day.
His security guards, wearing black polos and light green gaiter masks, mostly escorted people to where they were supposed to be, Brentnall said. The other security, including behind the barrier and the stage, “was clearly managed by the secret service,” he said.
Licensing requirements for working in DC are strict, and companies that fail to comply can face fines and even jail terms, said David Deanovich, owner of Deanovich and Associates, a Maryland-based professional security company.
Although Deanovich’s company was on the Ellipse’s list of safety precautions at the Trump rally, Deanovich said his company ultimately didn’t take the job, and he was upset when he recently learned his name was on the permit.
Deanovich said he never worked with the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys or volunteers.
“You’d be an idiot” if you hired unlicensed people in DC, he said. “You would lose everything. I would lose any license and ruin myself. ”
However, Trump employees like Roger Stone have used the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys for security. And Oath Keepers members discussed among themselves about providing security at the January 6th events.
Accused rioter Graydon Young, who applied to join the Florida Oath Keepers in December, forwarded an email from the organization to his sister, Laura Young Steele, saying they were going to DC to conduct “security operations” according to a criminal complaint . His sister, a former law enforcement officer, was also arrested and charged with the riot.
The Youngs were among those mentioned in a conspiracy charge brought against Watkins and eight others last week.
Stewart Rhodes, leader of the Oath Guardians, recruited members and volunteers who said they would keep things safe. Rhodes was named directly and indirectly in criminal charges related to the uprising, but nothing was charged.
The team is either “directly responsible for event security or supports event security on both days,” said Rhodes in a post on the group’s website. “We’ll also be on the streets to ensure the safety of Trump supporters in general as they walk back to and from their hotels, vehicles, or subway stations (then Antifa likes to attack weak, old, disabled, or family-like people to the hyenas that they are). “
The Oath Keepers called for volunteers for pre-election pro-Trump rallies and for Stop the Steal events after his loss to President Joe Biden in November, including events in Atlanta. Las Vegas; Sunrise, Florida; and Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Multiple media outlets reported in January that Stone, a political ally of Trump and leader of the Stop the Steal campaign, had used the Oath Guards at least twice for security.
Stone posted on its website on February 10th that the Oath Guards voluntarily granted him “free security” in DC on January 6th, as they did at three rallies in Miami and Tampa.
“I was told that all of the men who volunteered to guard me were off duty cops,” Stone wrote. “I found her polite, effective and saw no sign of wrongdoing or other extremist attitudes.”
The New York Times reported that six people guarding Stone that day entered the Capitol. The Times reported that all were identified as part of the Oath Guardians and were photographed with Stone on the day and hours before the riot.
The Oath Guardians have seen controversial events in the past, often with the stated purpose of providing security. In 2014, the group was part of an armed conflict between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management. Bundy refused to pay federal grazing fees for his cattle for decades, and the government issued a court order to begin the seizure.
The office stepped back into stalemate and returned the seized cattle.
Later that year, members of the Oath Keepers guarded the rooftops of businesses in Ferguson, Missouri, during riots related to the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer, Darren Wilson.
St. Louis County Police confronted the armed volunteers, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, on the grounds that they could not stay on the rooftops for failing to comply with county ordinance that requires background information and qualifications for security guards and guards.
When the volunteer guards found out about the policy, a local Oath Guardian in Missouri told the mail service that they laughed and returned to their posts the next evening.
Featuring: Erin Mansfield