Watkins gets 10 years for Roberts saloon robbery

Alastair Baker
News Editor
Thursday, September 3, 2020
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(Left) Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan and Reserve Deputy Brandon Pratt lead Jesse Watkins away after his sentencing. Photo by Alastair Baker

Jesse Watkins, Billings, was sentenced last week to 10 years with 5 suspended, for his role in the Lost Village Saloon burglary, Roberts, July 25, 2019. 
Watkins is ordered to pay restitution for $4,500 to the owners of the saloon and will enter treatment programs at Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility.
Carbon County District Court Judge Matthew Wald presided over the sentencing, Aug. 26.
A plea agreement had been reached between both the prosecution and the defense with Watkins changing his plea to guilty July 15 this year.
The court heard an emotional retelling from the victim of the burglary who now suffers from PTSD because of that night.
“Mr. Watkins, I’m only going to call you Mr. Watkins to show you some respect because you showed me none that night,” she said at the beginning of her statement.
“What you took from me that night I can’t get back, you see I have PTSD because of it. I don’t get to make a deal with somebody to get my life back. I have been sentenced to a life of terror, fear, and have no trust in human beings anymore. You have sentenced me to a life of fear. I have nightmares. I take medication to try and get past this,” she told him. 
She went on to say he had “killed” her inside and wish she had been “murdered” rather than face her life now.
“You humiliated me, took my dignity away from me and you also robbed me of my job. That job meant the world to me because I am disabled. I hope you are proud you robbed a disabled person,” she said.
The victim is now 62 years old and attends counseling sessions once a week.
“I will try to explain to you what PTSD is; it is like being in a car wreck and going into a coma and waking up a year later and trying how to be yourself again. Not knowing anything, but trying to relearn, I have to try and relearn my life over, how to trust people again, how not to have that fear. I don’t think you can try to understand or do I think you believe or even care,” she said.
“I can’t work anymore, I am too afraid. And just last week the person you robbed, passed away,” she said. “I hope this all lays heavy on your conscious because I do not feel you are sincere or remorseful.”
She recalled lying on the floor with Watkins’ alleged accomplice holding a gun to her head and Watkins coming towards her with a crowbar over his head.
“All I could think about was ‘Oh my God! This man is going to beat me to death,’” she read.
She remembers him taking a glass jar from the counter that was being used to raise money for a local funeral.
“I was raised in this town, how do you think that made the community feel? How evil are you?” she said.  “You are heartless. I do not believe in this plea-bargain.”
Watkins responded saying he was “truly sorry” for his actions.
“I cannot take back what I did to you that night. I have no excuse for why I did that to you. I think about it every night,” said Watkins.
Watkins told the judge he is ”trying to change his ways of thinking” and seeking ways to improve himself through education.
Watkins said he is looking into programs to get his certification in welding and automotive.
“I have a family out there. I have a son who will be 2 years old and I’m bummed about being here but this is because of the choices I made,” said Watkins.
He observed he was “happy getting the help” because he knew if he was out he would  “screw up and end up back here.”
Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon explained the joint agreement between the prosecution and the defense “provides for accountability, rehabilitation.”
He said looking at the Presentence Investigation file “there are a lot of issues, a lot of things to be done to see if this person changes his life.”
Judge Wald explained to the victim that he couldn’t fix the experience she went through.
He acknowledged that some of the actions that happened that night were not commensurate with burglary but “I have to comply with the law.”
“The sentence is for burglary the only sentence before the court and it is a non-violent crime,” he said.
It was determined by the court that the crowbar was used for gaining entry and was there for that reason.
During Judge Wald’s summing up, the victim left the courtroom in tears.
To Watkins comment that he was trying to change his ways of thinking, Judge Wald said, “I hope you really mean it.”
“It is possible you won’t get into a program and you are going to have to do the best you can. First, you have to pay the price for what you did,” he said.
Carbon County Sheriff’s Detective Quentin Thompson tracked down the two suspects after the victim observed Watkins and his alleged accomplice throwing rubbish into a dumpster near the bar. From this Thompson found an O’Reilly Auto Parts receipt for canned tire seal belonging to one of the men. On Aug. 28 Thompson was informed by the Billings Police Department they had the names of the two suspects. Thompson went round to one of the men’s apartments and observed a gold 1996 Nissan Maxima in the driveway. The car had been caught on video surveillance that night outside the Lost Village Saloon.