Champaign County duo in Capitol riot indicted in federal court

Two Champaign County residents authorities say are associated with a militia organization were indicted Wednesday in connection to the Washington, D.C., Capitol riot.

Jessica Watkins, 38, and Donovan Crowl, 50, were indicted in federal court in the District of Columbia on charges of conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, destruction of government property and unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds, according to the department of justice. They were charged along with Thomas Caldwell, 65, of Clarke County, Virginia.

Prosecutors said the three are associated with the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary organization focused on the recruitment of current and former military members or first responders. Prosecutors said during a detention hearing in Crowl’s case that they believe the Oath Keepers have told its members to prepare for “literally war” with the federal government.

Watkins and Crowl remain in Montgomery County Jail where they have been incarcerated since their arrest Jan. 18. The department of justice said in a press release that Watkins posted photos of herself and Crowl online and captioned one photo: “Me before forcing entry into the Capitol Building. #stopthesteal2 #stormthecapitol #oathkeepers #ohiomilitia.”

“Subsequently, she posted a video of herself inside the Capitol captioned, ‘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.’”

The three defendants started communicating in November and continued through January, according to prosecutors and the indictment.

“The exchanges vary in topics from a call to action to logistics, including lodging options, coordinating calls to discuss the plan, and joining forces with other Oath Keeper chapters,” the release says. “On Dec. 31, 2020, Caldwell posted, ‘THIS IS OUR CALL TO ACTION, FREINDS! SEE YOU ON THE 6TH IN WASHINGTON, D.C. ALONG WITH 2 MILLION OTHER LIKE-MINDED PATRIOTS.’ In a subsequent post on Jan. 2, 2021, Caldwell stated, ‘It begins for real Jan 5 and 6 on Washington D.C. when we mobilize in the streets. Let them try to certify some crud on capitol hill with a million or more patriots in the streets. This kettle is set to boil…'”

Federal prosecutors said the maximum penalty for obstructing an official proceeding is 20 years in prison.

Attorneys for Watkins and Crowl have said in previous court hearings that their clients are law-abiding citizens.

In the release, officials said the case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice. It mentioned that the Southern District of Ohio had provided “valuable assistance” in the case.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David Devillers said Thursday afternoon in a social media that his office isn’t done.

“We in the SDOH are committed to do everything we can to assist our colleagues in DC,” he said.

Next court dates in the cases weren’t immediately clear Thursday afternoon.

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