A Florida man who breached the Senate chamber on Jan. 6 was sentenced to 8 months behind bars on Monday — in the first punishment handed to a Capitol rioter for a felony plea.
Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, apologized to the court, saying that he was ashamed of his actions and had gotten caught up in the moment when he joined the mob in 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, adding, “This was a foolish decision on my part.”
Prosecutors had asked for him to serve 18 months, arguing in a recent filing that Hodgkins “like each rioter, contributed to the collective threat to democracy” by forcing lawmakers to temporarily halt their certification of President Biden’s election victory.
Hodgkins was seen on videos and photos of the siege holding a “Trump 2020” flag over his shoulder on the Senate floor. He was also wearing a “Trump 2020” T-shirt and goggles around his neck as he took selfies with other rioters on the dais behind him.
The Tampa man pleaded guilty last month to one count of obstructing an official proceeding — which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence — after prosecutors agreed to drop the four misdemeanor counts against him.
His lawyer has asked US District Judge Randolph Moss not to send Hodgkins to prison, saying the shame attached to him for participating in the siege should be punishment enough.
“Whatever punishment this court may provide will pale in comparison to the scarlet letter Mr. Hodgkins will wear for the rest of his life,” Patrick N. Leduc wrote in a recent filing, referencing the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel “The Scarlet Letter.”
The judge noted that coming up with a sentence was complicated because there was no existing benchmark for the court to apply.
“The court here had to consider both what I think are the extremely damaging events that occurred that day but also who Mr. Hodgkins is as an individual,” Moss said. “And as I think is reflected by the sentencing I imposed, I tried to strike that balance.”
Hodgkins will surrender to the Bureau of Prisons at a later date.