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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Florida Man Gets 8 Months in First Felony Sentence for Capitol Riot

Paul Hodgkins of Tampa pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding for invading the Senate chamber to stop the counting of electoral votes.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A Florida man on Monday became the first Jan. 6 rioter sentenced to jail time for storming the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to block the certification of President Joe Biden's victory.

Paul Hodgkins, 38, took a bus from Tampa, where he lives, to the nation's capital and brought with him a backpack containing eye goggles, rope and white latex gloves. He is one of several insurrectionists captured on closed-circuit cameras standing in the well of the U.S. Senate chamber on Jan. 6, jeering with other rioters while holding a red Donald Trump reelection flag.

Hodgkins pleaded guilty last month to obstruction of an official proceeding, a felony charge.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss sentenced him to eight months in prison, less than half of the 18 months sought by federal prosecutors.

In a statement to the judge, Hodgkins said he intended no harm and urged others inside the Capitol to remain peaceful and not cause damage. He told Moss that “without a shadow of a doubt,” he is remorseful for his actions.

“I say this not because I face consequences but because of the damage that day’s incident caused and the way that this country that I love has been hurt,” Hodgkins said. “Though I take some solace in knowing that my actions did not involve any violent or reckless behavior, I realize that my involvement did still contribute to the greater cost that took place.”

A government sentencing memo details how Hodgkins “made his way to the heart of the proceedings” to count electoral votes, standing on the Senate’s raised platform, cheering and jeering with other Trump supporters.

Although he remained inside for less than 30 minutes, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Sedky told the Moss on Monday that Hodgkins directly contributed to the emotional distress of lawmakers and staff who were forced to shelter in place for hours.

“Many of those individuals on scene that day will bear emotional scars for many years, if not forever, and those injuries are part and parcel of Mr. Hodgkins’ conduct taken into account with the other attackers,” Sedky said.

The prosecutor argued Hodgkins knew the event could turn violent because he brought rope, goggles and other tools. She said that although Hodgkins claimed he followed others down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, his ignorance didn’t abdicate his responsibility.

When Hodgkins approached the Capitol and stepped over barricades, he would have smelled tear gas and seen injured officers, Sedky said, arguing it was his decision to press forward into the Senate chamber despite those observations.

"It’s truly flouting lawmakers, the law enforcement officers who were there to protect them and the laws that they were trying to enforce to basically transfer power from one president to another president," Sedky said. "Jan. 6 was an act of domestic terrorism.”

Patrick Leduc, a Tampa-based attorney who represented Hodgkins, urged the court to impose a lenient sentence in light of his client's cooperation with authorities upon arrest and his lack of criminal record. Leduc also highlighted some 100 hours of community service Hodgkins has performed as evidence he understands the severity of his actions.

“I’m blown away by what an honorable man he is,” the attorney said.

Leduc also drew comparisons between Hodgkins and Anna Morgan-Lloyd, a 49-year-old Indiana woman sentenced last month for her role in the insurrection after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of demonstrating inside the Capitol. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth gave Morgan-Lloyd three years of probation for what Leduc argued was the same conduct undertaken by his client.

But Moss, a Barack Obama appointee, said during Monday's sentencing hearing that the damage inflicted on American democracy by Hodgkins was more than a few hours of lockdown for lawmakers and staff. Democracy requires the cooperation of the electorate, the judge said, and the message Hodgkins was sending by carrying a Trump flag through the Capitol was unmistakable.

“He 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 a nation,” Moss said. “In that act, he captured the threat to democracy that we all witnessed that day.”

Hodgkins also will serve two years of probation after his eight-month prison term and must pay $2,000 in restitution.

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Categories / Criminal, Government, Politics

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