The first individual to have pleaded responsible to storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 with the intention of stopping the certification of the Electoral College vote was sentenced on Monday to eight months in jail in what may function an indicator for scores of comparable instances.
The defendant, Paul A. Hodgkins, pleaded responsible final month to a single felony rely — obstruction of an official continuing earlier than Congress — and admitted to breaching the Senate ground with a Trump flag and a backpack full of objects like goggles, rope and a pair of latex gloves.
Mr. Hodgkins was certainly one of about 50 individuals who made it to the Senate ground, prosecutors say. His acknowledgment that he went deep into the Capitol intending to disrupt the peaceable transition of energy set him aside within the eyes of prosecutors from scores of different members of the mob who had merely walked into the constructing.
At a sentencing listening to in Federal District Court in Washington, Judge Randolph D. Moss mentioned there wanted to be “severe consequences” for the assault, but additionally famous that Mr. Hodgkins, a 38-year-old Florida crane operator, was a first-time offender and had pleaded responsible early. Those circumstances will apply to solely a few of the different defendants who’re going through comparable fees.
Judge Moss mentioned the occasions of Jan. 6 — when, as he famous, a mob assaulted the house of Congress and compelled legislators to drop the enterprise of democracy and flee the constructing — have been “extraordinary” and “chilling.”
“When a mob is prepared to attack the Capitol,” he mentioned, “democracy is in trouble.”
Mr. Hodgkins informed Judge Moss that he was “remorseful” for breaking into the Capitol, calling it a “foolish decision.” He additionally mentioned that he had adopted the gang contained in the constructing, including that if he had identified the riot was going to escalate because it did, he by no means would have entered within the first place.
“In short,” Mr. Hodgkins mentioned, “I allowed myself to put my passions before my principles.”
From the outset of the sprawling investigation into the Capitol assault, prosecutors have struggled with how to apply truthful requirements of justice to lots of of people that did various things and bore totally different ranges of culpability. Even although they have been all a part of the identical mob, some rioters did little greater than stroll into — then out of — the Capitol whereas others shattered home windows, broke into non-public places of work or assaulted law enforcement officials.
Mr. Hodgkins’s sentence was lower than half of the 18 months the federal government had requested for however greater than the request made by his lawyer, Patrick Leduc, for no time in jail. The obstruction rely he was charged with is a felony and allowed prosecutors to ask for jail time however not use the extra politically inflammatory crimes of sedition or riot.
During the listening to, a prosecutor, Mona Sedky, mentioned the federal government needed to “frame” the fees towards Mr. Hodgkins as an act of home terrorism to deter future assaults. But Ms. Sedky additionally mentioned prosecutors weren’t in search of a proper sentencing enhancement for against the law of terror.
The authorities have arrested almost 550 individuals within the Capitol assault, and as of late final week about 20 had entered responsible pleas. Only three defendants, together with Mr. Hodgkins, have been sentenced, though extra will observe this summer season and into the autumn.
The first individual to be sentenced, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, of Indiana, was charged with a misdemeanor, and late final month she was allowed to conclude her case with out serving jail time. Another defendant charged with minor crimes, Michael Curzio, of Florida, was sentenced final week to time served after spending six months in jail — the utmost sentence he may have obtained below the regulation.
In the times earlier than Mr. Hodgkins was sentenced, his lawyer, Mr. Leduc, introduced the case in courtroom papers as a type of cautionary story, evaluating the aftermath of the riot to the interval after the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln was “facing the complex decision of how to heal a nation that was hopelessly divided.”
At the listening to, Mr. Leduc quoted Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address, saying that Judge Moss had an opportunity to present “malice toward none” and “charity toward all.” Judge Moss responded by asking Mr. Leduc if a sentence of no jail time would in reality “heal the country” or just create situations which may encourage one other assault just like the one on Jan. 6.
Mr. Leduc additionally famous that Mr. Hodgkins had made “a fateful decision to follow the crowd” and was solely within the Capitol briefly.
“It is the story of man who for just one hour on one day, lost his bearings and his way,” he wrote earlier than the listening to.
But Judge Moss rejected that depiction, saying that Mr. Hodgkins had introduced goggles and a pair of gloves with him to the Capitol as if “prepared for conflict.” Judge Moss additionally famous that Mr. Hodgkins was carrying a Trump flag.
“He was staking a claim on the floor on the United States Senate,” Judge Moss mentioned, “not with an American flag but a flag of a single individual over a nation.”