A transgender woman arrested for taking part in the January 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol building has asked to be released from jail until her trial citing safety concerns while in custody.
Jessica Watkins, a member of the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers, was arrested January 17 on some of the most serious charges related to the violent insurrection.
Her lawyer alleges Watkins has been “treated harshly” during her time in jail reports Buzzfeed. Because she is transgender, her lawyer says she is at “particular risk in custody.”
According to the petition for release, Watkins says she suffered an arm injury while being held in an Ohio county jail and was refused medical treatment. The 38-year-old apparently went on a four-day hunger strike in order to protest that decision. She says officials responded by stripping her naked and leaving her “in a cell with lights on 24 hours a day for 4 days in full view of everyone.”
In asking for release, Watkins argues she is not threat to the public and offered to wear a monitoring device.
Her attorney admits his client’s actions on January 6 were “misguided,” but alleges Watkins “believed that the president of the United States was calling upon her.”
The public defender claims his client “did not vandalize anything … or engage in any destruction of property, and in fact, encouraged others not to vandalize.”
The petition also notes that Watkins “drove nearly eight hours to turn herself in to local police” after discovering she was wanted for questioning.
But prosecutors point to photographs of Watkins, a former Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, showing up to the Capitol building in full tactical gear. Upon arriving, she joined other Oath Keepers in pushing through the hyped up mob, up the stairs and inside the building.
Investigators also obtained text messages from Watkins shortly after Joe Biden was declared the winner in the 2020 presidential election inviting people to her group’s basic training in Ohio. “I need you fighting fit by innaugeration [sic],” read one message.