The first Capitol rioter charged with a felony has been sentenced to serve eight months in prison in a case that could impact the punishments other suspects could receive.
Paul Hodgkins, a 38-year-old man from Florida, pleaded guilty to a charge of obstructing congressional proceedings. Hodgkins admitted he breached the Senate chamber during the Insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 to disrupt Senate proceedings to certify the 2020 election results. He spent about 15 minutes inside the chamber was caught on surveillance cameras wearing a Trump shirt and carrying a Trump 2020 flag.
The sentence Hodgkins received was less than the 18-21 months the Justice Department was seeking. Hodgkins’ lawyer asked for no prison time for his client, and according to the HuffPost, the defense attorney said a lenient sentence with no time behind bars could help bring the country together.
Hodgkins spent several minutes addressing the court.
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Hodgkins told the judge he was “truly remorseful” and regretful of what he did on Jan. 6. He said he made a “foolish decision” and allowed himself to put his “passion” before his “principles.”
“I came to D.C. with the intention of supporting a president I loved,” Hodgkins said. “The storming of the U.S. Capitol building is not something I had any idea would happen.”
Hodgkins added that he recognizes Joe Biden is “rightfully and respectfully the president of the United States.”
Federal District Judge Randolph Moss condemned Hodgkins’ actions on Jan. 6, saying he took part in a “grave offense against democracy.”
“[Hodgkins] was staking a claim on the floor of the United States Senate, not with the American flag but with a flag declaring his loyalty to a single individual over the entire nation.”
The judge however, added that he deserved some leniency because he took a guilty plea very early in the process and was not involved in any of the violence that took part that day at the Capitol. He also cited his lack of a criminal record before this.
Legal experts say Judge Moss and his reasoning in issuing the sentence against Hodgkins could set unofficial guidelines for other Capitol riot cases. Nearly 550 rioters have been charged overall thus far. According to the Justice Department, at least 230 of them have been charged with the same obstruction crime to which Hodgkins pleaded guilty.