Jul 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Capitol rioter gets 8 months in prison in first Jan. 6 felony sentence

Paul Hodgkins
Hodgkins in the Senate chamber on Jan. 6. Photo: CCTV footage via DOJ

38-year-old Paul Hodgkins of Tampa was sentenced to eight months in prison Monday after pleading guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding, a felony charge stemming from his participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Hodgkins is the first Jan. 6 rioter to be sentenced for a felony, setting a benchmark for hundreds of other cases that prosecutors have brought against individuals involved in the Capitol attack.

What they're saying: As he prepared to announce the sentence, Judge Randolph Moss said that Hodgkins "actively participated" in an event that threatened not only Capitol security, but "democracy itself."

  • He said it was "chilling" that the pro-Trump mob was able to disrupt the certification of President Biden's election victory, and that Hodgkins' waving of a Trump flag on the Senate floor symbolized his loyalty to a single individual over the nation.
  • "It left a stain that will remain on us and on this country for years to come," Moss added.

Background: Prosecutors had sought 18 months in prison for Hodgkins, who was recorded on surveillance video holding a Trump flag on the floor of the Senate chamber. Federal sentencing guidelines for similar offenses suggest between 15 and 21 months in prison.

  • Hodgins has no criminal record and was not charged with engaging in violence, but prosecutors argued that his actions posed a "grave danger to our democracy." They also contended that he had prepared for a confrontation by entering the Capitol with rope, protective goggles and latex gloves in a backpack.
  • "[An 18-month sentence] will send a loud and clear message to other would-be rioters that if and when they are caught they will be held accountable, and that people who might be contemplating a sequel to the Jan. 6 attack will stand down, and there won’t be a next time," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Sedky said at a sentencing hearing Monday.

The other side: Hodgkins' lawyers requested that he serve no prison time, citing his "courage" and "strength of character" in pleading guilty and accepting responsibility for his actions.

  • Hodgkins spoke in court and said he was "truly remorseful and regretful of his actions," suggesting he was "caught up in an emotional protest" and originally had no intention of storming the Capitol.
  • "Joseph R. Biden is rightfully and respectfully the president of the United States," he added.

The big picture: Federal prosecutors have described the Capitol riot probe — which has seen charges against over 550 people thus far — as "likely the most complex investigation ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice."

  • Prosecutors said in a court filing that although individuals convicted of such behavior may have no criminal history, their beliefs make them "unique among criminals in the likelihood of recidivism."
  • Roughly 20 individuals have pleaded guilty in the sprawling investigation, which has also netted conspiracy charges against extremist groups accused of plotting the attack ahead of time.
  • One person was sentenced last month to three years of probation for a misdemeanor charge. Hodgkins' sentencing may affect whether other individuals charged in relation to the attack choose to accept guilty pleas or go to trial.
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