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Florida man first to be sentenced on felony connected to Jan. 6 Capitol riot

Written by on July 19, 2021

A Florida man is the first to be sentenced on a felony charge in connection to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol – and the judge’s decision Monday on how long, if at all, to keep him behind bars will likely influence hundreds of other defendants considering whether to take plea deals or face trial. 

Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, of Tampa, Fla., pleaded guilty last month to one count of obstructing an official proceeding. 

Prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss to sentence Hodgkins to 18 months behind bars, saying in a recent filing that he, “like each rioter, contributed to the collective threat to democracy” by forcing lawmakers to temporarily abandon their certification of Joe Biden’s election victory and to scramble for shelter from incoming mobs.

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A lawyer for Hodgkins asked the judge not to impose a prison sentence, saying the shame that will attach to Hodgkins for the rest of his life should be factored in as punishment.

“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, citing a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel in which a woman accused of adultery is forced to wear a letter “A.”

Hodgkins was never accused of assaulting anyone or damaging property. 

Prosecutors said he deserves some leniency for taking responsibility almost immediately and pleading guilty to the obstruction charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, fine of $250,000 or twice the monetary gain or loss of the offense.  

But their filing also noted how he boarded a bus in his hometown of Tampa bound for a Jan. 6 rally hosted by then-President Trump carrying rope, protective goggles and latex gloves in a backpack — saying that demonstrated he came to Washington, D.C. prepared for violence.

Court documents show Hodgkins entered the U.S. Capitol building at approximately 2:50 p.m. on Jan. 6. Around 3 p.m., he entered the Senate chamber, walked among the desks, and then removed eye goggles. He took a “selfie-style” photograph and walked down the Senate well where, a few feet away, several individuals were shouting, praying and cheering using a bullhorn, according to the Department of Justice

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Hodgkins walked toward the individuals and remained standing with them while they continued commanding the attention of others. At approximately 3:15 p.m., Hodgkins exited the Senate chamber and the U.S. Capitol Building.

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