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Alpine resident pleads guilty to Jan. 6 Capitol riot charge

Sean David Watson has remained out on bond since originally being arrested in April 2021 for his role in the insurrection.

By Travis Bubenik

An Alpine man who publicly boasted about participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol pleaded guilty on Thursday to a misdemeanor charge for his role in the riot.

During a virtual court hearing before U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta, Watson pleaded guilty to one count of “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.”

In exchange for the guilty plea, federal prosecutors agreed to drop three other charges.

Under the “parading” count, Watson faces a maximum of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine, along with possible probation and restitution. Sentencing has been tentatively set for late August.

Watson’s attorney Shane O’Neal declined to comment on what sentence the defense team would ask the judge for.

Watson is one of the many Capitol mob defendants across the U.S. who have been vocal about their role in the attack. 

“I don’t regret any of it, I’m actually proud of what I’m doing,” he told a CBS7 reporter about a month after the riot.

In court documents, prosecutors claimed that Watson - a former lab technician at Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine - had bragged to coworkers about being at the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

Prosecutors alleged that Watson showed his fellow employees cell phone videos of himself inside the Capitol. Another unnamed witness allegedly told investigators that Watson claimed to coworkers that he “f----- shit up” during the riot.

“I was one of the people that helped storm the capitol building and smash out the windows,” Watson allegedly wrote in a text a day after the attack. “We made history today. Proudest day of my life!”

The guilty plea Thursday comes about a month after another West Texan, Midland resident Jenny Cudd, was sentenced to two months probation for her role in the riot.

Cudd’s case has seen substantially more back-and-forth between defense attorneys and prosecutors than Watson’s case.

After her initial sentencing in late March, Cudd’s lawyers asked a federal judge to modify her sentence to allow her to carry a gun while on probation, claiming she needed it for protection after receiving “serious harassment and threats.”

Prosecutors strongly opposed the request, citing the “violent nature” of her remarks after the attack and her “complete lack of remorse.” 

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden nonetheless agreed to Cudd’s request a few days later after finding that she had “credibly” claimed that she had received threats and needed protection.

As NPR reported in January, most guilty pleas stemming from the insurrection have been for misdemeanor charges like the “parading” count in Watson’s case and the similar “entering and remaining in a restricted building” misdemeanor that Cudd pleaded guilty to.

Editor's note: Shane O'Neal, the defense attorney cited in this story, sits on Marfa Public Radio's  Board of Directors.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.