Florida Man Becomes First to Go to Prison For Capitol Riot

·5 min read
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos Getty

A Florida man who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and took a selfie inside the Senate chamber while donning a Trump campaign flag and protective eye goggles is the first insurrectionist to get prison time for his crime.

Paul Hodgkins, a 38-year-old Tampa resident, was sentenced to 8 months in prison on Monday after previously pleading guilty to a single felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding. D.C. District Judge Randolph Moss also sentenced Hodgkins to 24 months of supervision after detention, on top of the already agreed-upon $2,000 in restitution and a promise to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their ongoing investigation into the riot.

Moss did not order Hodgkins to immediately go into custody; instead, he will be allowed to self-surrender to the Bureau of Prisons at a later date.

Federal guidelines stated that Hodgkins could have faced up to 21 months in prison and a fine of $250,000, and prosecutors had asked for an 18-month sentence. They said his actions were one of the reasons the Senate had to evacuate that day and that he “came prepared for confrontation.”

“He proudly posed for selfies and texted those to his friends. He made himself part of the action,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Sedky said during the Monday sentencing hearing.

Capitol Rioter’s Lawyer Argues a Slap on the Wrist Would ‘Heal’ the Nation

Arguing that Hodgkins “was part and parcel of an act of domestic terrorism going around him,” Sedky told the judge that his sentence had larger implications for other Capitol riot offenders—and the potential to have a chilling effect on future similar crimes.

Hodgkins’ sentencing 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 the next time,” Sedky said.

His defense lawyer argued that his “honorable” client did not deserve to see the inside of a prison cell—and that a lenient sentence would “heal” the nation.

“We’re a nation divided, and we’re divided because we lost our way as a country,” defense attorney Patrick Leduc said Monday, reiterating arguments in his sentencing memo. “I am confident that this court will give Mr. Hodgkins a sentence that is charitable… A charitable sentence will send a message that grace is something we all need when we seek it by acknowledging what we did wrong.”

Moss ultimately rejected the argument that Hodgkins had a small role in the siege, stating that he had previously admitted to federal authorities his goal on Jan. 6 was to stop Congress from certifying election results for President Joe Biden.

“There were people who were more culpable, but he understands what he was doing. He made his way to the Senate floor,” Moss said.

Later, the judge noted to Hogkins that he is “very focused on sentencing [him] and not sentencing everyone else who was present there that day.”

Hodgkins’ sentencing represents just the second instance of an insurrectionist being punished for their role in the riots among roughly 500 who have been charged. Last month, Anna Morgan-Lloyd was sentenced to three years of probation after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count for storming the Capitol with a friend and later calling the siege the “best day ever.”

While Morgan-Lloyd’s case set a precedent for the hundreds of accused rioters charged with misdemeanors, Hodgkins does the same for those hit with felony charges.

Former New York federal prosecutor Neama Rahman previously told The Daily Beast that Morgan-Lloyd’s probation was a “significant win” that will likely only help other rioters scrambling to get a plea deal to avoid jail-time.

Prosecutors state Hodgkins—donning a backpack with goggles and latex gloves—entered the Capitol around 2:50 p.m. among a group of fellow rioters. About 10 minutes later, he was seen on video entering the Senate chamber, where he eventually snapped a “selfie-style” photograph on his cell phone.

A criminal complaint states that Hodgkins then “walked down to the Senate well, where he stood adjacent to an elevated desk and platform.”

“A few feet away, several other individuals were shouting, praying, and commanding the attention of others in the Senate chamber,” prosecutors said, noting that among the group was self-described “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley. During the show of force, prosecutors state Hodgkins also raised his “his flag in salute.”

<div class="inline-image__credit">U.S. Attorney's Office</div>
U.S. Attorney's Office

His defense attorney contends that since his February arrest, Hodgkins has tried to keep a low profile. This despite the “scarlet letter [that] he’s going to have to carry with him.”

“A large segment of American society will never forgive my client. It’s like putting someone in the stocks and throwing tomatoes,” Leduc said.

Despite the public backlash, Leduc noted, his client has continued to work 40 hours a week at MiTek Industries in Tampa, Florida, and perform hours of unpaid community service.

Ahead of his sentencing, Hodgkins expressed remorse for his actions on Jan. 6, noting that he went to the Capitol “with the intention of supporting a president I loved” and that “storming of the U.S. Capitol building is not something I had any idea would happen.”

“This was a foolish decision on my part… I do not make any excuse… or blame any politician,” Hodgkins said, adding that he now acknowledges Joe Biden is president. “I allowed myself to put passion before my principles.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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