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Transgender alleged Oath Keeper charged in Capitol riot was left naked in cell, lawyers claim

Jessica Watkins was mistreated after going on hunger strike, according to court filing.

Updated: February 22, 2021 - 2:32pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Attorneys for a transgender woman charged in connection with the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol say that their client voted for Barack Obama, and has been mistreated in jail, according to a weekend court filing.

"Ms. Watkins was left naked in a cell with lights on 24 hours a day for 4 days in full view of everyone else," lawyers for Jessica Watkins wrote in the Saturday filing.

The claims were among several cited late Saturday by lawyers who asked a judge to release Watkins to home detention in care of her fiance. 

Watkins was charged last month along with two others, Thomas Caldwell and Donovan Crowl, in an alleged conspiracy involving disorderly conduct and other violations connected to the Jan. 6 breach. In court filings, the Justice Department alleged that Watkins belongs to the Oath Keepers group, many of whose members have also been charged for their alleged part in the Capitol melee.

In documents viewed by Just the News, public defenders for Watkins on Feb. 20 told a U.S. District Court judge that Watkins is a law-abiding military veteran who helped rescue and medically treat other rallygoers. The lawyers claimed that Watkins was an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, and has been treated cruelly while in custody.

"As a transgender female, she is at risk of harsh treatment in custody," the attorneys wrote. "Indeed, while in local custody, she was treated harshly."

That included both medical neglect and humiliating, punitive conduct, they said.

"She had a documented injury to her arm, but it went untreated," attorneys wrote. "She went on a hunger strike to get medical attention, but instead of medical attention, she was stripped naked and put on suicide watch. As this Court is likely aware, suicide watch in the prison system is not designed to treat one's mental health issues, but is incredibly punitive." 

Watkins was "forced out of the Army after her sexual orientation was discovered," the attorneys wrote, without describing the circumstances. Since then, attorneys said, Watkins has served her community as a firefighter and as an emergency medical technician, and has worked for an organization that aims to prevent the spread of HIV. 

In pleading for home detention, the attorneys noted that Watkins voted for Barack Obama, but did not explain why that would militate in favor of a release. 

The fiance, Montana Siniff, pledged to monitor Watkins if the defendant were released to his care.

"Please, your honor, justice delayed will still be justice," Siniff wrote in an appendix to the pleading. "She has no desire to resume militia activities, we have taken actions already to assuage the public and the courts of any danger she might arguably possess, and she wishes to ignore politics and focus on serving cocktails and cooking food, at a location simple for the government to monitor." 

Attorneys for Watkins acknowledged that their client's alleged behavior was worrisome, but couched her as being more victim than perpetrator.

"While some of the rhetoric she allegedly engaged in is troubling, she fell prey to the false and inflammatory claims of the former president, his supporters, and the right wing media," the attorneys wrote.  

In charging documents, the government said that Watkins and alleged co-conspirators coordinated their actions Jan. 6 at the Capitol.  

Watkins posted photos of herself on social media, officials wrote, and later posted video of herself inside the Capitol. According to the Justice Department, Watkins captioned the video with a report of her actions: "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.

Watkins faces a hearing in D.C. District Court on Tuesday, to determine whether she will continue to be held in custody pending trial.

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