WASHINGTON — A military veteran who stormed the U.S. Capitol with the Oath Keepers on Jan. 6 was sentenced to 8½ years in federal prison on Friday after apologizing for his actions.
Jessica Watkins told US District Judge Amit Mehta her actions were “reprehensible” and apologized for the impact her conduct had on the country.
“My actions and behaviors on that fateful day were wrong and, as I now understand, criminal,” she said. “Violence is never the answer.”
Watkins, recalling her testimony at her trial, once again said she was “just another idiot” running around the Capitol on January 6 and apologized to officers.
“I was just another idiot running around the Capitol,” she said. “But idiots are held accountable, and today you’re going to hold that idiot accountable.”
Watkins’ sentencing came the day after Mehta sentenced Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in federal prison and Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs to 12 years.
Mehta said Watkins’ behavior wasn’t as bad as Rhodes or Meggs’, but he was still serious and she also played a role in bringing others to Washington on Jan. 6.
“No one would suggest you’re Stewart Rhodes, and frankly, I don’t think you’re Kelly Meggs,” Judge said. But she was more than just a foot soldier, he added.
Mehta said Watkins, who is trans, has “a pretty compelling life story.” Assistant United States Attorney Alex Hughes said the government is not disputing or minimizing what Watkins has been through personally, saying she “has our sympathies, but she has no excuse.”
Watkins praised Mehta, saying he had proven to be “an even-handed arbiter” and said she understood how the jury – which found her guilty of obstructing official process and aiding and abetting, but the acquitted of a charge of seditious conspiracy – has come to its conclusion.
She said she “watched Infowars” and Alex Jones and “learned that Dominion’s servers were overrun by Chinese” before the Jan. 6 attack. She said she still believes the country needs to take a closer look at the 2020 election.
Mehta said he recognized Watkins for her apology and her willingness to plead, although she never reached a settlement with the government.
Meta also sentenced Kenneth Harrelson, a low-level Florida oath-keeper, to 4 years in prison later Friday, saying he did not bear the “same degree of responsibility and guilt as others.”
Harrelson told the court before his sentencing that he didn’t come to Washington on Jan. 6 because of politics. “I have never voted for a president in my life,” he said. “I don’t care about politics, I didn’t care then. I don’t care now.
He also apologized to United States Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who testified at the group’s trial, choking up saying: ‘I didn’t know ‘the police’ were under attack. , otherwise I would have tried to stop him. I could have done more and I apologize for that.
Other members of the Oath Keepers will be sentenced next week.
This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com