Eight months in prison for US Capitol rioter in felony case

Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, of Tampa, Fla., front, stands in the well on the floor of the US Senate on January 6 2021 (AP) (AP)
17:32pm, Mon 19 Jul 2021
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A man who breached the US Senate chamber carrying a Trump campaign flag was sentenced to eight months behind bars, the first resolution for a felony case in the Capitol insurrection.

Paul Allard Hodgkins apologised and said he was ashamed of his actions on January 6.

Speaking calmly from a prepared text, he described being caught up in the euphoria as he walked down Washington’s most famous avenue, then followed a crowd of hundreds up Capitol Hill and into the Capitol building.

“If I had any idea that the protest … would escalate (the way) it did … I would never have ventured farther than the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Hodgkins told the judge.

He added: “This was a foolish decision on my part.”

Prosecutors had asked for Hodgkins to serve 18 months behind bars, saying in a recent filing that he, “like each rioter, contributed to the collective threat to democracy” by forcing politicians to temporarily abandon their certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory over President Donald Trump and to scramble for shelter from incoming mobs.

His sentencing could set the bar for punishments of hundreds of other defendants as they decide whether to accept plea deals or go to trial.

He and others are accused of serious crimes but were not indicted, as some others were, for roles in larger conspiracies.

Under an agreement with prosecutors, Hodgkins, who is from Florida, pleaded guilty last month to one count of obstructing an official proceeding, which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop lesser charges, including entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct.

Video footage shows Hodgkins wearing a Trump 2020 T-shirt, the flag flung over his shoulder and eye goggles around his neck, inside the Senate.

He took a selfie with a self-described shaman in a horned helmet and other rioters on the dais behind him.

His lawyer pleaded with Judge Randolph Moss to spare his 38-year-old client time in prison, saying the shame that will attach to Hodgkins for the rest of his life should be factored in as punishment.

The lawyer argued in court papers that Hodgkins’ actions were not markedly different from those of Anna Morgan Lloyd, other than Hodgkins stepping onto the Senate floor.

The Capitol (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Archive)

The 49-year-old from Indiana was the first of roughly 500 arrested to be sentenced.

She pleaded guilty to misdemeanour disorderly conduct and last month was sentenced to three years of probation.

Hodgkins was never accused of assaulting anyone or damaging property.

And prosecutors said he deserves some leniency for taking responsibility almost immediately and pleading guilty to the obstruction charge.

But they also noted how he boarded a bus in his hometown of Tampa bound for a January 6 Trump rally carrying rope, protective goggles and latex gloves in a backpack — saying that demonstrated he came to Washington prepared for violence.

On the day, he walked through grounds already littered with smashed police barriers and broken windows, evening passing police officers and others injured as the crowd surged toward the Capitol, prosecutors said.

“Time and time again, rather than turn around and retreat, Hodgkins pressed forward,” the government filing said.

Hodgkins’ lawyer, Patrick N. Leduc, described his client as an otherwise law-abiding American who, despite living in a poorer part of Tampa, regularly volunteered at a food bank.

He noted that Hodgkins had been an Eagle Scout.

His actions on January 6 “is the story of a man who for just one hour on one day lost his bearings … who made a fateful decision to follow the crowd”, the lawyer said.

Mr Leduc’s 33-page presentencing filing devotes several pages to the Civil War, highlighting Abraham Lincoln’s calls for reconciliation weeks before his assassination.

“The court has a chance to emulate Lincoln,” he wrote.

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