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As more Republican politicians attempt to portray the January 6 Capitol rioters as political prisoners, a 38-year-old man from Florida is set to become the first one to actually go to prison for it.
Paul Allard Hodgkins was sentenced to 8 months in federal prison on Monday, after facing a potential 20-year-maximum sentence. Hodgkins pleaded guilty last month to one felony count of obstructing Congress after he breached the Senate chamber, while wearing a Trump shirt, and took a selfie that showed the “QAnon Shaman,” who is currently awaiting trial, in the background, according to court filings.
Footage published by the New Yorker also shows Hodgkins in the Senate chamber holding a Trump flag as rioters prayed.
The government sought an 18-month sentence with three years’ supervised release for Hodgkins, but U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss handed down a sentence of eight months and two years’ supervised release. Moss said he gave a lesser sentence because Hodgkins had no prior criminal record and expressed remorse for his participation in the insurrection, which Moss said he “took to be sincere.”
“I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am truly remorseful and regretful of my actions in Washington, D.C.,” Hodgkins, who lives in Tampa, told the court.
“I do not, and will not make any excuse, nor will I place any blame on any politician, journalist, or otherwise,” added Hodgkins, who now accepts that Joe Biden is the President of the United States.
But the sentence was still higher than the zero time in prison he’d requested.
Hodgkins is the second person to be sentenced in connection with the Capitol riot, after an Indiana woman received three years of probation last month. And he’s the first to be sentenced for a felony in connection with the riot.
Unlike others charged in the Capitol riots, however, the government never accused Hodgkins of committing violence or destroying property.
During Hodgkins’ sentencing, federal prosecutor Mona Sedky argued that Hodgkins’ case had a larger meaning beyond the charges of which he was accused. During her plea for an 18-month sentence with three years’ supervised release, Sedky admitted that Hodgkins didn’t injure anyone or destroy property.
“But he was surrounded by and benefitted from people who engaged in both of those things,” Sedky said. “At its core, this was a grave danger to our democracy.”
The judge, however, didn’t buy the government’s argument that Hodgkins’ case should set a precedent for worse offenses.
“I think there are going to be a broad range of sentences,” the judge said. “I do want to stress from the outset that I'm very focused on sentencing you and not everyone else who was present there on that day.”
Despite the remorse Hodgkins expressed in court, his lawyer, Patrick Leduc took a different approach. He described the government’s labeling of the riot as “domestic terrorism” as “gaslighting” and comparing January 6 with last summer’s uprisings following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“It has an impact on the First Amendment, and we need to be very careful,” Leduc said.
The judge didn’t agree.
“There were people storming through the halls of the Capitol chanting ‘Where's Nancy [Pelosi]?’” Moss said. "That is not an exercise of First Amendment rights by any measure."