3 Military Veterans From Extremist 'Oath Keepers' Indicted on Federal Conspiracy Charges in Capitol Assault

Three military veterans belonging to the far-right paramilitary "Oath Keepers" have been indicted on federal charges, the Justice Department said.
Three military veterans belonging to the far-right paramilitary "Oath Keepers" have been indicted on federal charges, the Justice Department said.U.S. Justice Department

The three "Oath Keepers" adherents face a slew of charges in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, including recruiting protesters for potential violence and conspiring to obstruct Congress, according to federal prosecutors.

Three military veterans affiliated with the paramilitary "Oath Keepers" extremist group have been indicted on a slew of conspiracy charges in connection with the deadly Capitol riots, the U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday.

If convicted, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison.

Jessica Marie Watkins, 38, Donovan Ray Crowl, 50, of Ohio, and 66-year-old Thomas Caldwell of Virginia were indicted in Washington, D.C. District court on federal charges of conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, destruction of government property and unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds.

The veterans are all tied to the "Oath Keepers," described by the Justice Department as "a paramilitary organization focused on recruitment of current and former military, law enforcement, and first responder personnel."

A 15-page indictment unsealed Wednesday contained new allegations from prosecutors, including accusations that Watkins solicited recruits in November for a “Basic Training” camp outside Columbus, Ohio so participants would be “fighting fit" by the presidential inauguration. Prosecutors also alleged Watkins participated in a “leadership only” conference call on an encrypted app with Caldwell to bring weaponry and protesters to the Capitol before Jan. 6.

The trio documented their participation and locations on social media, the indictment says. A Facebook message posted by Caldwell on Jan. 6 said, “We are surging forward.  Doors breached." Watkins posted photos of herself with Caldwell on Parler, the complaint said, with a caption stating, “Me before forcing entry into the Capitol Building. #stopthesteal2 #stormthecapitol #oathkeepers #ohiomilitia.”

A later video post said, “Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today. Teargassed, the whole, 9. Pushed our way into the Rotunda. Made it into the Senate even. The news is lying (even Fox) about the Historical Events we created today," the complaint said.

Prosecutors said Caldwell sent a message saying "All members are in the tunnels under the capital," via a messaging app during the riots. "Seal them in turn on gas," the message said, according to federal authorities.

In a statement Wednesday, defense attorney Thomas Plofchan, who is representing Caldwell, called his client “a highly decorated veteran” who “expects to have the charges dismissed or to be acquitted at trial,” The Washington Post reported. He denied that Caldwell was affiliated with the "Oath Keepers."

Watkins, an Ohio bartender and Army veteran, said earlier this month in an interview that she did not destroy any government property, but acknowledged she did enter the Capitol as it was being stormed. The event started peacefully, Watkins told the Ohio Capital Journal.

“To me, it was the most beautiful thing I ever saw until we started hearing glass smash,” she said. “That’s when we knew things had gotten really bad,”

Crowl's attorney has not spoken publicly on the federal indictment. 

More than 140 people have been charged thus far in connection with the violent storming of the Capitol, in which five people died. Two law enforcement officers on duty at the time have since taken their own lives, authorities said.