Two more oath keepers sentenced to prison for role in US capitol attack

Members of the Oath Keepers militia group, including Jessica Marie Watkins (left), stand among supporters of US President Donald Trump protesting against the US Congress’s certification of the results of the 2020 US presidential election, at the US Capitol. Washington, USA on the Eastern Front, January 6, 2021. Photo taken on January 6, 2021. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: Two members of the far-right Oath Keepers were sentenced to prison on Friday for their role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump who sought to overturn his election defeat. .

Kenneth Harrelson and Jessica Watkins were convicted by a federal jury in Washington in November of obstructing an official proceeding during the storm at the Capitol. Rioters clashed with police, smashed windows, and sent lawmakers running for safety.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Harrelson to four years in prison, while Watkins was sentenced to eight and a half years. Harrelson was also found guilty of obstructing the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory and tampering with documents and proceedings. Watkins was also convicted of conspiracy and obstructing officers during the riot. Both were acquitted of the charges of plotting rebellion.

Judge Mehta expressed that Harrelson had shown genuine remorse and believed that he had taken less responsibility than other Oath Keepers with whom he was placed. Evidence presented in Harrelson’s case did not include his messages discussing “revolution” or using extremist terms, unlike some other Oath Keepers. The judge also noted that Harrelson did not physically attack or threaten to attack a police officer during the capital incident.

During the trial, a video was played in which Harrelson can be heard shouting the word “treason” as he entered the US Capitol. Prosecutors argued that his intent was to intimidate members of Congress and people who worked in the building.

Harrelson gave an emotional statement to the court, saying he had never been involved in politics before January 6 and that if he had known, he would have intervened to stop the violence against police officers. He acknowledged his responsibility and the pain his actions had caused.

Federal prosecutors sought a 15-year sentence for Harrelson, while his attorney requested a lighter sentence. Prosecutors recommended an 18-year sentence for Watkins, while his attorney asked for five years.

The sentencing hearings came a day after Oathkeepers founder Stuart Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison for crimes including conspiracy to commit rebellion. Oath Keepers, founded in 2009, is comprised of current and retired U.S. military personnel, law enforcement officers, and first responders. Some members breached the Capitol, while others organized an armed “quick reaction force” at a suburban hotel.

Next week, four other Oath Keepers will face sentencing for plotting the coup.

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