2 Champaign County residents conspired ‘to forcibly storm the U.S. Capitol,’ FBI says

WASHINGTON D.C. — Authorities charged an apparent leader of the extremist Oath Keeper group and two Champaign County residents with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States in connection to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to federal court records.

Amended complaints were filed this afternoon for Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl, both of Champaign County, charging them each with additional federal charges, including conspiracy and destruction of government property.

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Authorities also took 65-year-old Thomas Edward Caldwell, of Clarke County, Virginia, into custody early Tuesday to face four federal charges, including the conspiracy charge, according to the Washington Post.

“Evidence uncovered in the course of the investigation demonstrates that not only did Caldwell, Crowl, Watkins, and others conspire to forcibly storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021—they communicated with one another in advance of the incursion and planned their attack,” the FBI said in the amended affidavit.

A court affidavit said Caldwell helped to organize a group of up to 10 people who were seen wearing military-style gear during the insurrection.

Caldwell’s arrest comes after Watkins and Crowl were arrested Monday. The FBI said Caldwell, Watkins and Crowl have ties to the Oath Keepers.

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The Oath Keepers are a large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been coopted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights, according to the FBI.

Watkins and Crowl are said to affiliated with or members of the Ohio State Regular Militia, which is a local militia organization that is a subset of the Oath Keepers, the FBI reported.

According to the affidavit, Caldwell sent a Facebook message where he discussed scouting lodging for several others at a Comfort Inn in Virginia about eight miles from the Capitol that “would allow us to go hunting at night if we wanted to.”

On Jan. 1, the FBI said Crowl sent a Facebook message to Caldwell saying “guess I’ll be seeing you soon...you are the man Commander,” the affidavit read.

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New court records obtained by News Center 7 Tuesday afternoon, show the FBI also obtained audio from the app Zello, which is a walkie-talkie style app.

In the audio, the FBI said a voice believe to be Watkins reported “We have a good group. We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan,” according to the affidavit.

Later in the audio the FBI said a voice also believe to be Watkins said “We are in the mezzanine. We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paintballs. But we are in here,” court records read.

According to the affidavit, a witness said Watkins returned to Ohio after the riot, but left Ohio on or about Jan. 14 “to stay with a friend and fellow Oath Keeper...”Tom” or “Commander Tom.” The FBI said it believes that person was Caldwell, according to the affidavit.

A search warrant served at Watkins’ home in Woodstock Sunday morning uncovered several items.

“One record that agents recovered appears to be directions for making explosives, authored by “The Jolly Roger,” an FBI agent wrote in court records. “I know that Watkins operates a bar known as the Jolly Roger, and is believed to operate a Facebook account under that same user name.”

Agents also found “protective and battle gear of the sort worn during the offenses of January 6, 2021.”

Another search warrant served Sunday at the location where Crowl was said to have occasionally stayed. FBI agents said law enforcement recovered a green reinforced vest with the name “Trapper” affixed to it. That is the “label visible on video and in photos that captured Crowl during the incursion of the Capitol,” records read.

Watkins and Crowl were arrested together and an Urbana police officer said they turned themselves in at that department. The told police they had been in Virginia and had driven back to Ohio when they learned the FBI was looking for them, court records read.

Both Watkins and Crowl are being held in the Montgomery County Jail.

Watkins will be sent to Washington D.C. to have her initial detention hearing and Crowl will be staying in the Montgomery County Jail pending his detention hearing Friday at 11:30 a.m.

All three each face a maximum of 42.5 years in prison.

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