Paul Allard Hodgkins, a 38-year-old man from Florida, has been sentenced to 8 months in prison for his participation in the breach of the US Capitol in what has become the first felony sentence for the January 6 events in Washington, DC.
The prison sentence issued to Hodgkins, who is a crane operator, for breaching the chamber of the US Senate as he was carrying a campaign flag of President Donald Trump, could set the tone for the trials of more than 500 other suspects detained by law enforcement over January 6, many of them kept under questionable circumstances.
Upon issuing the sentence, US District Judge Randolph Moss declared that the Florida man had taken part in what he said was “one of the worst” events in American history.
He did note, however, that Hodgkins’ role in the Capitol breach was not as significant as that of others when supporters of President Trump penetrated the building of the US Congress on the day of the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 win over doubts about election violations.
However, judge Moss argued that the rally of Trump supporters at the Capitol was not a protest but “an assault on democracy” which has “left a stain” on the nation for years to come.
He recognized that the case was unique, which is why making a decision on Hodgkins’ punishment was a challenge, with no similar prior sentencings to be used as a guide.
While the prosecution had asked for 18 months in prison for the man from Tampa, Florida, the judge said Hodgkins deserved a shorter prison sentence.
The judge took into account that he wasn’t one of the lead attackers, did not damage to government proper, and didn’t assault any persons.
Hodgkins’ lawyer, Patric Leduc, later told the media that his client was disappointed and “hurt” that he had been sentenced to a prison term, and that they were headed to talk to his employer about arranging for serving the time.
As the lawyer was pleading with the judge to allow Hodgkins to avoid a prison term, Moss interrupted him, and asked rhetorically whether the American democracy would be preserved if people are allowed “to storm the US Capitol”.
In his address to the court, the 38-year-old defendant read calmly from a prepared text that apologized and felt ashamed.
He argued he was caught up in the rally’s euphoria, following hundreds of others into the Capitol.
Hodgkins added it was a foolish decision to venture towards the US Congress building, and that if he had had any idea the events would escalate, he never would have.
Last month, the Tampa, Florida native pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding as the breach of the Capitol left Congress members running and hiding.