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July 19, 2021

First Jan 6 rioter to be sentenced on felony charges gets (below-guideline) sentence of eight months in federal prison

As noted in this preview post on Friday, this morning was the scheduled sentencing day for Paul Allard Hodgkins, who carried a Trump flag into the well of the Senate during the January 6 riot at the Capitol.  Hodgkins' sentencing has been seen as particularly significant because he is the very first person to be sentenced on felony charges stemming from his actions on January 6 — one misdemeanor defendant has been sentenced to probation — and because Hodgkins' sentencing memo and the Government's sentencing memo made notable arguments as he sought probation and as the government urged an 18-month prison term (at the midpoint of the calculated guidelines range of 15 to 21 months).

This AP piece reports via its headline that the federal sentencing judge here did what often happens in these kinds of cases, namely he came quite close to splitting the difference: "Capitol rioter who breached Senate sentenced to 8 months."  Here are more details on this notable federal sentencing:

A Florida man who breached the U.S. Senate chamber carrying a Trump campaign flag was sentenced Monday to eight months behind bars, the first resolution for a felony case in the Capitol insurrection.

Paul Allard Hodgkins apologized and said he was ashamed of his actions on Jan 6. Speaking calmly from a prepared text, he described being caught up in the euphoria as he walked down Washington’s most famous avenue, then followed a crowd of hundreds up 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. He added: “This was a foolish decision on my part.”

Prosecutors had asked for Hodgkins to serve 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 2020 election victory over President Donald Trump and to scramble for shelter from incoming mobs.

His sentencing could set the bar for punishments of hundreds of other defendants as they decide whether to accept plea deals or go to trial. He and others are accused of serious crimes but were not indicted, as some others were, for roles in larger conspiracies. Under an agreement with prosecutors, Hodgkins pleaded guilty last month to one count of obstructing an official proceeding, which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop lesser charges, including entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct.

Video footage shows Hodgkins wearing a Trump 2020 T-shirt, the flag flung over his shoulder and eye goggles around his neck, inside the Senate. He took a selfie with a self-described shaman in a horned helmet and other rioters on the dais behind him.

His lawyer pleaded with Judge Randolph Moss to spare his 38-year-old client time in prison, saying the shame that will attach to Hodgkins for the rest of his life should be factored in as punishment. The lawyer argued in court papers that Hodgkins’ actions weren’t markedly different from those of Anna Morgan Lloyd — other than Hodgkins stepping onto the Senate floor. The 49-year-old from Indiana was the first of roughly 500 arrested to be sentenced. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and last month was sentenced to three years of probation.

Hodgkins was never accused of assaulting anyone or damaging property. And prosecutors said he deserves some leniency for taking responsibility almost immediately and pleading guilty to the obstruction charge. But they also noted how he boarded a bus in his hometown of Tampa bound for a Jan. 6 Trump rally carrying rope, protective goggles and latex gloves in a backpack — saying that demonstrated he came to Washington prepared for violence.

Prior related posts:

July 19, 2021 at 12:34 PM | Permalink


8 months for participating in a seditious act?! The judge's admonitory rhetoric aside, MAGA folks will likely see this as a tap on the tush and encouragement for further acts of sedition. Upward variance to 5 years would have been more appropriate.

Posted by: Michael Levine | Jul 19, 2021 5:45:10 PM

The coverage I saw suggested he didn't provide information to the prosecutors or anything. Also, this is problematic:

"But they also noted how he boarded a bus in his hometown of Tampa bound for a Jan. 6 Trump rally carrying rope, protective goggles and latex gloves in a backpack — saying that demonstrated he came to Washington prepared for violence."

I recognize the breadth of appropriate punishments here. But, this seems too low, especially if it is somehow a "model" for future punishments.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 19, 2021 7:04:47 PM

Agree with Joe and Michael Levine.

The facts that Joe highlights are indeed problematic in their own right. Not only that, but also they directly contradict the defendant’s claim that he didn’t realize the situation would “escalate”.

BTW, as Michael Levine points out (and I have before too), it wasn’t a riot. Those are what sometimes happen after sportsball games. It was a sedition/insurrection. The media I’m not surprised to see getting it wrong, but this blog ought to know much better. As should the DOJ!

Posted by: kotodama | Jul 19, 2021 7:27:34 PM

Yes, on the "riot" talk

The government sentencing memo makes clear that he is being prosecuted for trying to stop the certification of the election.

This is INSURRECTION. Mitch McConnell called it that.

There is a pending bill (though for some reason, it is not getting any attention from what I can tell) to enforce the "insurrection" penalty in the 14th Amendment. Some argued Trump should have only been targeted with that and not impeachment. I disagree, but it underlines what is involved.

The memo speaks of that "grave danger on democracy" etc. It is an attack on the U.S. Capitol that, again as cited in the memo, to try to stop the transfer of power.

Trolls who compare it to other "riots" arising from anti-government protests are just that. We need not aid and abet their rhetoric.

I guess you can say insurrection is in some fashion a sort of riot. But, I think that leads to confusion.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 19, 2021 9:51:13 PM

Great points Joe, thanks for adding those.

I wasn't aware of the bill in progress either. So thanks for the heads up on that as well!

Posted by: kotodama | Jul 19, 2021 11:01:11 PM

That is still too high and an injustice but at least there was a bit of a push back from the judge.

Posted by: restless94110 | Jul 20, 2021 7:10:56 PM

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