A Florida man who stormed the U.S Capitol building on January 6th and took a picture of himself inside the Senate Chamber while donning a Trump campaign flag and protective eye goggles is the first to get prison time for the crime.
Paul Hodgkins, a thirty-eight-year-old Tampa resident, was sentenced to 8 months in prison on Monday after pleading guilty to a single felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding.
The D.C District Judge Randolph Moss also sentenced Hodgkins to twenty-four months of supervision after detention, on top of the $2,000 in restitution that was already agreed upon, and a promise to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their ongoing investigation into and about the Capitol attack by Trump supporters.
Hodgkins doesn't have to go into custody right away though. Instead, he's allowed to self-surrender to the Bureau of prisons at a later date.
Hodgkins could have faced up to twenty-one months in prison and a fine of $250,000, with prosecutors asking for an eighteen-month sentence. According to federal guidelines, his actions were one of the reasons the Senate had to evacuate because he came "prepared for confrontation."
During the Monday sentencing hearing, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Sedky said: "He proudly posed for selfies and texted those to his friends. He made himself part of the action."
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 January 6th attack will stand down, and there won't be the next time," Sedky explained.
His defense lawyer, on the other hand, argued that his "honorable" client did not deserve to be put into prison 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 rejected the argument though, that Hodgkins had a small role in the siege, acknowledging that he had previously admitted to authorities that his goal on Jan 6th 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.
His sentence is the 2nd instance of an insurrectionist being punished accordingly for their role in the riots among 500 who have been charged. Anna Morgan, who described the riot as "the best day ever" pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count for storming the Capitol with a friend, and landed 3 years of probation.
"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."
Even with the public backlash, his defense attorney, Leduc, noted that his client has continued to work 40 hours a week at MiTek Industries in Tampa, Florida, and perform hours of unpaid community service.
Hodgkins has since 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."