“A Tale of an American Political Prisoner”

Part 10.1: The Federal Courthouse; Washington, DC

–The “OathKeeper 1” Trial: Jury Pool Screening–

by: Jessica Watkins (X: @J6ssicaWatkins)

A True Story; 100% verifiable with Court Transcripts, Evidentiary Exhibits, Court Documents, and Testimony.

Our trial began in the last week of September; it would be the most prominent trial in America in 2022. By this point, I had been to likely dozens of Court hearings; Arraignment, Detention Hearings, Oral Arguments for Motions, Status Hearings, and Jury Questionnaire Hearings. The date for our trial kept getting pushed back. Trial was initially scheduled for late January 2022, then mid-April, then mid-June. When the trial began in the last days of September, it felt surreal. We had been in jail for a year and 9 months when we finally were taken to our trial. Only the Courthouse routine felt familiar: woken up by the CO’s at 4am. At 5am an Escort comes and takes you to to R & D to sit in a holding cell for 2 hours; where I would try to sleep on an uncomfortable bench. Impossible most mornings, because I am usually forced to listen to crazy whacked out junkies talk to themselves for 2 hours, or vomit on the floor as we await transport. Eventually transport guards come in dragging chains ominously behind them in a shower of clinks and clanks. The women are taken out first, shackled at the waist, hands and ankles and Loaded into the Paddy Wagon (sometimes with strangers, sometimes alone). Then the men are brought out and loaded on the other side of the Paddy Wagon; doors slam and I make small talk with Meggs and Harrelson on the other side of the divider during our commute to the Courthouse. Every morning, our Paddy Wagon passed the US Capitol Building and a few minutes later, we pull into the massive elevator that takes the Paddy Wagon into the basement of the US Courthouse. We are unshackled and brought into the holding cells in the basement of the Federal Courthouse. This routine would become far more familiar over the next 2.5 months, our trial dragging on twice as long as scheduled. But this… this was the first day of Trial, and there was a new step to factor into the routine. There were civilian clothes to change into!

Montana had shipped up clothes for me to wear in my trial, but they hadn’t yet arrived. So. My attorney’s wife picked out something for me to wear. It was a cute outfit (although I hate pink), but I froze my ass off. The Federal Courthouse is FREEZING cold and the outfit was thin and provided little to no warmth. But, it was nice to finally wear something that WASN’T a damned orange jumpsuit! The idea is that the Jury isn’t supposed to know that you’re incarcerated. The civilian clothes are supposed to trick them, to make them think that you’ve been free this whole time. It’s also to prevent their mind from being biased to see you as a guilty person. As an inmate. It makes sense really, and it was especially important today, because today was the day we were actually choosing our Jury. The US Marshals came, shackled me and brought the boys down to meet me in the hallway. It was nice to see Meggs and Harrelson looking like people again. For a while there, they were looking ROUGH. Their beards were trimmed and they had haircuts. I barely recognized them in their suits. Wearing orange DOES effect the way we see each other. We were led through the myriad of tunnels under the Courthouse and brought up in an elevator to holding cells in the waiting area behind the Courtroom itself. Soon, Stewart Rhodes joined us. The whole gang (Palian’s words, not mine) was there, minus Tom Caldwell, who was not incarcerated but had been home on Bond. We chatted the time away, nervous at what came next. Finally, the time had come. The Marshals took off our shackles, and led us out into the Courtroom. It was PACKED! Every seat in the house was full. The ambiance was solemn, all eyes on us as we followed each other in with our escorts. The Marshals, also in civilian clothes to prevent identification, packed compact pistols and tasers under their suit jackets. It all seemed so ordinary. A veneer of civility. I remember looking around and whispering to Meggs, “Nobody ever said tyranny is impolite”.

No cameras or recording equipment were allowed in the Courtroom at any time; a sketch artist drawing in a flurry of activity as he struggled to illustrate the scene as it played out. The journalists took hasty notes in their notebooks. We filed in as we were led, and took our seats at the table. At the Defense table from my vantage point, on my far left was Harrelson and between he and I sat Meggs. Stewart Rhodes sat to my right. Across the table in a chair was Tom Caldwell. We five would be the Defendants. Our Defense attorneys were stacked 10 deep, and filled the two tables. My Attorney and Paralegal (Liz) came over and we went over a bit on the Jury Selection bit. After Crisp went back to his table, Liz stuck around a bit to help me calm down. I was pretty f***ing nervous. On the other side of the Courtroom at a similar table, was the Department of Justice Prosecutors: Nestler, Racoczy, Hughes, and Manzo. I was relieved to see that Ahmed Basset was nowhere in the room. F*** that guy. The Prosecution team were the ones who were hellbent on destroying us, but they weren’t alone. Beside them in the benches; the FBI Agents that would be assisting them, the (laughably) expert witnesses and a curly haired woman that pulled ALL of their strings. Every decision they made would be screened through her. I called her “Curly”, for the Stooge that she was. I suspect that she was Lisa Monaco, but if not, then she doubtlessly reported to her directly. She was the Biden envoy. She hid her identity jealously behind her COVID mask. She was the DoJ goon that was orchestrating this charade. But Jeffery Nestler was posing as the Lead Prosecutor. The doors behind the Dais opened up, and Judge Mehta glided out, robes waving behind him as he walked. “ALL RISE!”

We stood hastily, and our Trial officially began. Judge Mehta sat first, and then bid us to be seated. He laid out the ground rules for the Jury Selection, and I wrote hastily in a notebook provided to me by my Attorney. Soon, there would be a Conga line (a “Stack”, lololol) of dutiful DC Residents – the hopefuls – to be selected for the highly coveted OathKeeper 1 trial. Immediately we were stunned by the selection of Jurists we had to chose from. Our Jury Selection would last 3-4 days, and they were a blur. In the interest of keeping this story moving forward, I am going to lump the entire Jury Pool Screening Process into this one paragraph. I am sure @SteveBaker can back me up on this; he sat in our trial every day for the entire trial. Our potential Jury Pool consisted of the following: Journalists for the Washington Post, Leftist Podcasters, Capitol Hill Staffers, DOJ Attorneys (or spouses of) and Former Prosecutors, a neighbor that was a good friend of Judge Faruqi (who conducted ALL of our Arraignments), someone who knew (and I suspected was in love with) Officer Harry Dunn, people (or family of people) who were at (or near) the US Capitol ON January 6th itself, and people who had businesses shut down during the J6 Curfew. Of the Jury Pool, I would say that Black Lives Matter protesters made up 1 out of 5 of the potential Jurists. No kidding. And we screened probably 70-80 of them. More or less. I don’t think that our Jury Pool was assembled inadvertently. I am not sure how the Jury Pool selection process works on the backside, but given the options we had to chose from… well, I was not impressed with our options. It seemed like they were stacking our Jury against us. I suspect that’s pretty much true; and why a Change of Venue was SUPER justified. Somehow, we needed to select 14 people out of this group. I liked some of the folks OK, but basically I wanted to scrub the entire Jury pool. We needed to find 12 Jury Members and 2 alternatives (backups). It seemed an impossible task. I almost wanted to give up on a Jury entirely and ask for a Bench Trial — to have Judge Mehta weigh the evidence and then issue a verdict himself. But that was not to be…