USA TODAY US Edition

Al­leged Oath Keep­ers mem­ber says she met Se­cret Ser­vice be­fore riot

Boe­ing 777s in spot­light but still fly­ing with dif­fer­ent en­gine types

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Jes­sica Watkins, an al­leged leader of the para­mil­i­tary group Oath Keep­ers who was ar­rested for her role in the Jan. 6 Capi­tol ri­ots, said in a court fil­ing over the week­end that she had trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton to pro­vide se­cu­rity for speak­ers at former Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s rally that day, that she had met with the Se­cret Ser­vice in ad­vance, and that she had a VIP pass.

The 38-year-old Ohio woman also said she be­lieved she was act­ing on a call from Trump to sup­port, not over­throw, the gov­ern­ment.

“Ms. Watkins did not en­gage in any vi­o­lence or force at the Capi­tol grounds or in the Capi­tol,” her fed­eral pub­lic de­fender, A.J. Kramer, said in a mo­tion seek­ing her re­lease to home con­fine­ment filed Satur­day in fed­eral court for the Dis­trict of Columbia. “She did not van­dal­ize any­thing or en­gage in any de­struc­tion of prop­erty. She was po­lite to the po­lice of­fi­cers she en­coun­tered.”

Watkins has been in fed­eral cus­tody since her ar­rest Jan. 17. U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Amit P. Me­hta has sched­uled a hear­ing Tues­day to con­sider whether to keep Watkins in cus­tody.

Watkins and Dono­van Crowl, 50, were among some of the first ar­rested af­ter the at­tack, along with Thomas Cald­well, 65, from Vir­ginia who is sus­pected of co­or­di­nat­ing with them. In­ves­ti­ga­tors say they and oth­ers are part of the Oath Keep­ers mili­tia.

Oath Keep­ers fo­cuses re­cruit­ment on former mil­i­tary, law en­force­ment and first re­spon­ders and has chap­ters around the coun­try. In Ohio, Watkins called her­self the “com­mand­ing of­fi­cer” of the Ohio State Reg­u­lar Mili­tia. In an af­fi­davit the FBI filed in court against Watkins, agents said the mili­tia mem­bers are dues-pay­ing mem­bers of the Oath Keep­ers.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors have sought to keep Watkins and oth­ers in cus­tody, not­ing their in­volve­ment in the Oath Keep­ers and po­ten­tial dan­gers to the com­mu­nity if they were re­leased.

In a court fil­ing op­pos­ing Cald­well’s re­lease, pros­e­cu­tors wrote that “as ev­i­denced by (Watkins’) con­duct lead­ing up to, dur­ing, and af­ter the at­tack on the Capi­tol, Watkins ex­hib­ited a sin­gle­minded de­vo­tion to ob­struct through vi­o­lence an of­fi­cial pro­ceed­ing that, on Jan. 6, was de­signed to con­firm the next pres­i­dent of the United States. Crimes of this mag­ni­tude, com­mit­ted with such zeal, be­lie any con­di­tions of re­lease that would rea­son­ably as­sure the safety of the com­mu­nity or by which Watkins could be trusted to abide.”

But Watkins’ fil­ing seek­ing re­lease paints a dif­fer­ent pic­ture: that of a former U.S. Army Ranger who served in Afghanista­n, a small busi­ness owner hit hard by the coron­avirus pan­demic, and a trans­gen­der woman at risk be­hind bars.

Watkins’ attorney says she “fell prey to the false and in­flam­ma­tory claims of the former pres­i­dent, his sup­port­ers and the right-wing me­dia.”

“Al­though mis­guided, she be­lieved she was sup­port­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion and her gov­ern­ment by pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity ser­vices at the rally or­ga­nized by Mr. Trump and the Repub­li­can law­mak­ers who sup­ported his goals,” the fil­ing doc­u­ment adds.

Kramer noted in court doc­u­ments that Watkins has no his­tory of vi­o­lence or crim­i­nal con­vic­tions, that she pro­vided her con­tact in­for­ma­tion to of­fi­cers at the scene on Jan. 6, and that she turned her­self in to lo­cal po­lice when she learned of her ar­rest war­rant.

Watkins en­tered the Capi­tol build­ing 40 min­utes af­ter it had been breached, the court doc­u­ments state: “By the time Ms. Watkins al­legedly en­tered the Capi­tol grounds and into the build­ing, the doors were opened. No po­lice of­fi­cer sug­gested that the build­ing was re­stricted or that Ms. Watkins was re­quired to leave.”

The FBI, how­ever, has noted that there are in­di­ca­tions oth­ers took part in a con­spir­acy, send­ing mes­sages di­rect­ing Cald­well to­ward mem­bers of Congress.FBI doc­u­ments say he also re­ceived the fol­low­ing mes­sages via Face­book while at the Capi­tol on Jan. 6:

“Tom all leg­is­la­tors are down in the Tun­nels 3 floors down.”

“Do like we had to do when I was in the core (sic) start tear­ing out floors, go from top to bot­tom.”

“Go through back house cham­ber doors fac­ing N left down hall­way down step.”

A half-dozen other sus­pected mem­bers of the group also were ar­rested in the past week as co-de­fen­dants in the case against Watkins and Crowl. Au­thor­i­ties said the Oath Keep­ers planned for Jan. 6, forcibly en­tered the U.S. Capi­tol with other ri­ot­ers, and at­tempted to delete so­cial me­dia posts and other in­for­ma­tion about their in­volve­ment.

An en­gine fail­ure on a United Air­lines flight from Colorado to Hawaii that rained air­craft parts over sub­ur­ban Den­ver on Satur­day has thrust the Boe­ing 777, air­craft en­gine types and fan blades into the spot­light.

The plane re­turned to Den­ver safely, and there were no in­juries re­ported among the 231 pas­sen­gers and 10 crew mem­bers or Colorado res­i­dents, but images from the in­ci­dent and pas­sen­ger re­ports have shaken trav­el­ers and left them with count­less ques­tions about one of the air­line in­dus­try’s go-to wide-body jets for Europe and Hawaii flights.

Video taken from in­side the plane shows the right en­gine on fire and part of the en­gine cover miss­ing. The piece landed in a yard in Broomfield, Colorado.

“The plane started shak­ing vi­o­lently, and we lost al­ti­tude, and we started go­ing down,” David Delu­cia, who was sit­ting di­rectly across the aisle from the side with the failed en­gine, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “When it ini­tially hap­pened, I thought we were done. I thought we were go­ing down.”

United only US air­line with that type of en­gine

The Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion said there are 128 older Boe­ing 777s pow­ered by Pratt & Whit­ney 4000 en­gines.

United is the only U.S. car­rier with planes with the af­fected en­gines. The air­line had 24 in op­er­a­tion and 28 in stor­age dur­ing the pan­demic be­fore vol­un­tar­ily ground­ing them late Sun­day. United pas­sen­gers will be ac­com­mo­dated on other flights.

The ground­ing is a step fur­ther than the FAA’s di­rec­tive to step up in­spec­tions on Boe­ing 777s with the Pratt & Whit­ney en­gines, specif­i­cally the fan blades.

The other air­lines op­er­at­ing 777s with the Pratt & Whit­ney en­gines are in Ja­pan and South Korea, the FAA said. They in­clude Ja­pan Air­lines, ANA and Korean Air­lines. The Ja­pan Civil Avi­a­tion Bureau grounded them.

Yes, you still might be booked on a Boe­ing 777

United has 44 other Boe­ing 777s, all with GE en­gines, which are not af­fected by United’s 777 ground­ing or the FAA di­rec­tive. The air­line will use one of those planes, for ex­am­ple, to fly be­tween San Fran­cisco and Taipei, Tai­wan, in March in­stead of one of its grounded 777s, ac­cord­ing to United spokesman Char­lie Ho­bart.

Amer­i­can Air­lines has 67 Boe­ing 777s in its fleet. They are pow­ered by Rolls-Royce and GE en­gines, which also aren’t af­fected by the FAA’s di­rec­tive. The planes were used for in­ter­na­tional fly­ing be­fore the pan­demic and are now fre­quently used for flights within the USA, spokesman Sarah Jantz said.

Delta Air Lines re­tired its 18 Boe­ing 777s last year, ear­lier than planned be­cause of the plunge in in­ter­na­tional travel un­der COVID-19 re­stric­tions and health con­cerns. The fi­nal Delta 777 flight was a New York-toLos An­ge­les flight in Oc­to­ber. The air­line, which be­gan fly­ing the jet be­tween At­lanta and Lon­don in 1999, called it the end of an era and praised the jet as a “work­horse.”

Delta CEO Ed Bas­tian said re­tir­ing a fleet as “iconic” as the 777 was not an easy de­ci­sion, given its role in the air­line’s in­ter­na­tional growth.

“I’ve flown on that plane of­ten, and I love the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence it has de­liv­ered over the years,” he said in a state­ment be­fore the fi­nal flight last fall.

Fail­ures rare but po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic

United Flight 328 from Den­ver to Honolulu ex­pe­ri­enced what is called an un­con­tained en­gine fail­ure.

That means parts ex­ited the en­gine de­spite pro­tec­tive cov­er­ings and other safety mea­sures.

Un­con­tained fail­ures are more dra­matic and tend to be more dan­ger­ous than other en­gine fail­ures be­cause of the po­ten­tial dam­age the er­rant parts can in­flict on the plane, ac­cord­ing to Ed Cole­man, chair­man of the safety sci­ence depart­ment at Em­bry Rid­dle Aero­nau­ti­cal

University in Prescott, Ari­zona, and di­rec­tor of the school’s Robert­son Safety In­sti­tute.

“When things come out of the en­gine, you don’t know where they’re go­ing to go,” he said. “Some punc­ture fuel tanks ... or they set some­thing on fire.”

In April 2018, an un­con­tained en­gine fail­ure on a South­west flight killed a 43-year-old mother of two.

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the South­west en­gine fail­ure found that a crack in an en­gine fan blade caused it to break off and hit the fan cover at a crit­i­cal point near some latches. The im­pact caused the cover to open and sent some parts into the fuse­lage. One part punc­tured a win­dow, fa­tally in­jur­ing Jen­nifer Rior­dan, the pas­sen­ger in the win­dow seat.

Over­all, the num­ber of en­gine fail­ures is “in­finites­i­mally small,” Cole­man said. “This is an ano­maly more than a rou­tine thing.

“They’re pretty rare be­cause of the in­spec­tion pro­ce­dures,” Cole­man said. “En­gines have spe­cific times that they get torn down and looked at.”

Cole­man, a former Air Force pi­lot, said pilots are rou­tinely trained to han­dle en­gine fail­ures, un­con­tained and con­tained. He said the United pilots’ tone on air traf­fic con­trol record­ings dur­ing the in­ci­dent un­der­scores that.

“Their voices don’t even go up an oc­tave,” he said. He has in­ves­ti­gated mil­i­tary en­gine fail­ures and ex­pe­ri­enced one un­con­tained en­gine fail­ure in his ca­reer and about a dozen other en­gine fail­ures that re­quired him to shut down the en­gine.

United had sim­i­lar en­gine fail­ure in 2018

Satur­day’s in­ci­dent wasn’t the first un­con­tained fail­ure for United on a Boe­ing 777 flight to Hawaii.

In Fe­bru­ary 2018, a flight from San Fran­cisco to Hawaii, on a plane with the same Pratt & Whit­ney en­gine, lost its en­gine cover af­ter a fan blade sep­a­rated dur­ing the plane’s de­scent into Honolulu.

The flight made an emer­gency land­ing, but there were no in­juries to the 363 pas­sen­gers and 10 crew mem­bers. The plane had mi­nor dam­age.

New en­gine in­spec­tion pro­ce­dures were put in place to avoid a re­peat.

“When a fan blade breaks, it’s usu­ally be­cause there’s some kind of missed crack,” Cole­man said.

It’s early, but the sim­i­lar­ity be­tween the two in­ci­dents will be ze­roed in on by the NTSB, he said.

“My guess is they will look at those in­spec­tion pro­ce­dures very closely and de­ter­mine what was missed and how it was missed,” he said.

The United Boe­ing 777 in­volved in the in­ci­dent in 2018 re­turned to ser­vice at United. Late Satur­day, United used the plane to fly pas­sen­gers taken off Flight 328 on a later flight to Honolulu.

 ?? PRO­VIDED BY U.S. DIS­TRICT COURT FOR THE DIS­TRICT OF COLUMBIA ?? In­ves­ti­ga­tors pro­vided this im­age, taken from a video posted on­line and in­cluded in fed­eral court doc­u­ments, as part of their case against Jes­sica Watkins, of Champaign County, for her role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capi­tol.
PRO­VIDED BY U.S. DIS­TRICT COURT FOR THE DIS­TRICT OF COLUMBIA In­ves­ti­ga­tors pro­vided this im­age, taken from a video posted on­line and in­cluded in fed­eral court doc­u­ments, as part of their case against Jes­sica Watkins, of Champaign County, for her role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capi­tol.
 ?? WCIT ?? United Air­lines Boe­ing 777 re­turned to Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port shortly af­ter take­off when the right en­gine failed.
WCIT United Air­lines Boe­ing 777 re­turned to Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port shortly af­ter take­off when the right en­gine failed.

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