An attorney for a member of the Oath Keepers charged over the Capitol attack has walked back on controversial claims that she was in Washington D.C. on January 6 to provide security while working with the Secret Service.
Jessica Watkins, 38, of Champaign County, Ohio, is facing a number of charges in connection to the insurrection including conspiracy and aiding the destruction of property, along with eight other members of the far-right militia group.
Over the weekend, her attorney claimed that she was present in the capital that day not as an insurrectionist, but to provide security for those speaking at the pro-Donald Trump rally beforehand and to “provide escort for the legislators and others to march to the Capitol as directed by the then President.”
Her lawyers also claimed that she was given a “VIP pass” to the January 6 rally and “met” with Secret Service agents.
After the original claim made headline news, her federal public defender filed a “clarification” motion and denied that she was sanctioned to work as security in any official way by the Secret Service.
“Counsel apologizes for being less than clear on a couple of points raised in the original motion,” the new filing states.
“Counsel in no way meant to imply that Ms. Watkins met with the Secret Service. A better verb would have been ‘encountered.’
“Ms. Watkins spoke with Secret Service members early in the day when she was coming through the check in point for the VIP area,” the motion adds.
“The point counsel was attempting to make was that she encountered law enforcement, including Secret Service officer on her way to providing security for the rally. She was given directives about things she could and could not do, including directions to leave all tactical gear outside of the VIP area, and she abided by all of those directives.
“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. She certainly did not mean to suggest that she was hired by the U.S. Secret Service to perform security.”
A Secret Service spokesperson previously said in a statement to CNN: “To carry out its protective functions on January 6th, the U.S. Secret Service relied on the assistance of various government partners. Any assertion that the Secret Service employed private citizens to perform those functions is false.”
Although the Oath Keepers, an anti-government militia group who are reported to have tens of thousands of members, are known to have provided security at events in the past, there is no indication that Watkins or the eight other people she is charged with were formally at the Capitol that day to provide protection.
In the affidavit listing the charges against her, prosecutors allege that Watkins used the social media app Parler to boast about forcing entry into the Capitol building.
“Me before forcing entry into the Capitol building,” she allegedly wrote while sharing an image of her in full Oath Keepers parliamentary-style uniform.
“We stormed the Capitol today….made it into the senate even,” she added in a separate January 6 post.
In another Parler post, Watkins responded to a comment challenging whether she actually forced entry into the building by replying: “Nope. Forced. Like Rugby. We entered through the back door of the Capitol.”
A court hearing to decide if Watkins can be released from custody ahead of her trial is set to take place on Tuesday.