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Illustration by Security Management

First Felony Sentence Handed Down to Capitol Rioter

A federal judge handed Paul Allard Hodgkins an eight-month federal prison sentence on Monday, making him the first person punished for felony activities undertaken during the riot on the U.S. Capitol on 6 January 2021.

In early June, Hodgkins reached a plea agreement in which he pled guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting. There are well-publicized photos of Hodgkins inside the Capitol carrying a Trump 2020 flag, however, there is no evidence of him harming anyone or causing significant property destruction.

In The Washington Post’s coverage of the hearing, it quoted U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss: “The symbolism of that act was unmistakable. He was staking a claim on the floor of the U.S. Senate not with an American flag, but declaring his loyalty to a single individual over the nation. In that act, he captured the threat to democracy that we all witnessed that day.”

Nevertheless, Moss handed down a sentence that was less than half of the prosecution’s 18-month recommendation, citing the lack of any charges related to assault, destruction, or being a leader in inciting the riot.

Hodgkins was contrite in the hearing, apologizing for his actions. “I do not and will not make any excuse, nor will I place any blame on any politician, journalist, or otherwise,” Hodgkins said. “…I completely acknowledge and respect that Joseph R. Biden is the rightful and respectful president of the United States.”

His attorneys had requested probation or house arrest in lieu of a prison sentence.

On 24 June, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that more than 500 people had been arrested in connection with the 6 January attack, including 100 individuals charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer. Arrests have continued since that announcement, and The Washington Post now puts the number at more than 540 arrests.

A previous Post article noted that Hodgkins’s sentencing could be seen as a precedent in the likely dozens or even hundreds of sentences for future cases related to the riot. With more than a dozen other riot participants having pled guilty, additional sentences could be coming soon.

However, a separate recent ruling could push the resolutions of more complicated cases even further into the future. A U.S. district court judge barred the U.S. Department of Justice from giving grand jury materials to a contractor hired to help organize the massive amount of video, photo, social media, email, and other evidence in the cases.