• A judge sentenced Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins to 8-and-a-half years in prison on Friday.
  • He said Watkins could have used her identity as a trans woman to be a role model.
  • Instead, she formed a local militia and encouraged others to commit crimes on January 6. 

The judge who sentenced Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins for her role in the Capitol insurrection said she could have used her identity as a transgender woman and army veteran to be a role model, rather than a riot leader. 

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Watkins to eight-and-a-half years in prison on Friday. Watkins is a US Army veteran and Oath Keepers member who founded a local militia in Ohio, which she mobilized to join her in attacking the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, CNN reported

Much of Watkins' emotional testimony focused on her struggles as a trans woman in the military, a journey she says made her "fearful and paranoid" and drove her deep into the world of conspiracy theories, according to CNN. 

Mehta acknowledged her hardship at Friday's sentencing, telling the court that Watkins' "story itself shows a great deal of courage and resilience," according to CNN. 

"You have overcome a lot," Mehta said, according to CNN. "And you are to be held out as someone who can actually be a role model for other people in that journey. And I say that at a time when people who are trans in our country are so often vilified and used for political purposes."

But, he said Watkins' suffering "makes it all the more hard for me to understand the lack of empathy for those who suffered that day," CNN reported. 

Watkins at first showed little remorse for her actions at the Capitol, where she blocked officers and encouraged other rioters to follow her lead, CBS News reported. She has since apologized and says she is now "ashamed" of her actions, according to CBS News. 

Despite his empathy for Watkins, Mehta said, "Your role that day was more aggressive, more assaultive, more purposeful than perhaps others,'" CNN reported. 

"Your role in those events is more than that of just a foot soldier," he added. "I think you can appreciate that."

Watkins was first convicted last year on a number of felony charges including obstructing Congress and interfering with police, CBS News reported.

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