An attorney for an Ohio militia member charged with conspiracy walked back a controversial claim that implied Jessica Watkins met with the U.S. Secret Service about working security for the Jan. 6 rally for Donald Trump before she participated in the Capitol riot.
The lawyer’s original motion, filed over the weekend, raised questions about whether the Secret Service had coordinated rally security with paramilitary groups that later stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Federal authorities allege Watkins coordinated with a group of at least eight other people who wore tactical gear and helmets and marched in military fashion into the Capitol. Hundreds of rioters stormed the building, sending lawmakers fleeing and leaving five people dead.
The Secret Service wasted no time rejecting the original claim that it had worked with Watkins or any private citizens on security for the rally. The agency said it relied only on the assistance of government partners.
“Any assertion that the Secret Service employed private citizens to perform those functions is false,” the agency said Monday.
Watkins’ federal public defender filed a “clarification” later on Monday saying the motion never meant to imply Watkins met with the Secret Service.
“A better verb would have been ‘encountered,’ “ the motion stated. Agents at the check-in point for the rally’s VIP area told Watkins what she could and couldn’t do inside and told her to leave all her tactical gear outside. The clarified motion stated: “Ms. Watkins does not suggest that she has any direct knowledge that her role as security was sanctioned by anyone other than people involved in organizing the rally.”
Watkins is jailed in Washington D.C., charged with conspiring with eight others accused of taking part in the Capitol riot. The FBI says they’re members or affiliates of the Oath Keepers, an extremist group that recruits former military, law enforcement and first responders.
The original motion – applying for a bond hearing – said Watkins went to Washington D.C. to protect the government, not to overthrow it. A hearing is set for Tuesday to determine whether she remains in custody.
In her bid for pre-trial freedom, Watkins stated she was at the rally to provide security for speakers and had a VIP pass to Trump’s speech.
An organizer of the Jan. 6 rally for Trump before the riot disputed Watkins’ claim in the amended motion that people involved in organizing the rally were working with her group.
“There was no coordination with the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys as to them handling any kind of services,” 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 and said they didn’t use the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys for those events either.
Although the Oath Keepers – and other groups – do sometimes provide security for people and events, there’s no official indication their services were used at the Capitol or for the rally at the Ellipse near the White House that day.
None of the nine people indicted in Watkins’ group appear on a District of Columbia list of licensed security guards. Beyond that, the Oath Keepers organization isn’t listed as a security provider for the National Park Service permit for the rally.
Security experts, including officials with companies who worked the event or were contacted to work the event, cast doubt on the possibility that any event organizer would use volunteer security guards.
Stockton said they used volunteers for other tasks but not security and were required to submit birth dates and Social Security numbers for the volunteers to the Secret Service for vetting.
Any private security guards for events with the Secret Service also must go through a similarly strong vetting process, said owners of two other security services, including a company that worked the rally and another named on the permit that didn’t wind up…