A Florida man who breached security and entered the US Capitol with a 'Trump 2020' campaign sign was sentenced to eight months in prison on Monday, making him the first rioter among hundreds facing prosecution to be incarcerated. Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, apologized to the court for his actions but that couldn't save him from the law.
Hodgkins said that he was ashamed of his actions and had gotten caught up in the moment when he joined the mob in the Capitol building. He has also been ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution for a portion of the damage to the building.
Punished for His Actions
Hodgkins of Tampa faced sentencing guidelines of 15 to 21 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding for interrupting Congress' counting of Electoral College votes. Prior to his sentencing he was calm in the court. He read out from a prepared statement wherein he apologized to everyone and said that he got caught up in the euphoria as he joined a crowd of hundreds charging toward Capitol Hill and into 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."
Hodgkins spent around 15 minutes in the Senate chamber, holding a flag supporting former President Donald Trump and taking pictures. District Judge Randolph Moss said that Hodgkins waving the flag for Trump was an unmistakable sign of loyalty to a single person rather than the country and democracy.
Assistant US Attorney Mona Sedky said that although Hodgkins didn't engage in violence himself, he walked among many who did â in what she called "the ransacking of the People's House." As Hodgkins walked by smashed police barriers, he could see the smoke of tear gas and the chaos ahead of him but he didn't stop.
"What does he do?" she asked the court. "He walks toward it. He doesn't walk away."
Hodgkins can be considered lucky given that prosecutors asked for him to serve 18 months. They argued 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.
Addressing Hodgkins directly, Moss said: "Although you were only one member of a larger mob, you actively participated in a larger event that threatened the Capitol and democracy itself. The damage that was caused that way was way beyond a several-hour delay of the vote certification. It is a damage that will persist in this country for several decades."
On the day of the riot, several videos shared on social media showed Hodgkins 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.
Last month, he pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing an official proceeding â which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence â after prosecutors agreed to drop the four misdemeanor counts against him.
His sentencing could now set the bar for punishment of hundreds of other rioters as they decide whether to accept plea deals or go to trial. Hodgkins and several others are accused of serious crimes but were not indicted, as some others were, for roles in larger conspiracies.