Pro-Trump rioters try to break into the U.S. Capitol as police hold them off with plastic shields.

Paul Hodgkins Is the First Capitol Rioter To Receive a Prison Sentence

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Paul Hodgkins has become the first Capitol rioter to earn a prison sentence for his participation in the January 6 insurrection. Until now, only one other person–Anna Morgan-Lloyd–had been sentenced for her Capitol riot crimes and she received just three years probation on a misdemeanor conviction.

But Hodgkins pled guilty to obstructing a joint session of Congress–a felony. The 38-year-old Florida man was sentenced Monday to eight months in prison.

Hodgkins’ lawyer tried to get D.C. District Judge Randolph Moss to let his client off without any prison time, arguing that a light sentence would help “heal” the country, according to the Daily BeastFortunately, Moss didn’t fall for that.

“We’re a nation divided, and we’re divided because we lost our way as a country,” Hodgkins’ attorney Patrick Leduc said Monday. “I am confident that this court will give Mr. Hodgkins a sentence that is charitable… A charitable sentence will send a message that grace is something we all need when we seek it by acknowledging what we did wrong.”

Leduc even went so far as to invoke Abraham Lincoln’s decision to pardon Confederate soldiers to support his own argument that leniency for Hodgkins would benefit the entire country.

The obvious rebuttal to that fairly dramatic argument is that going easy on someone who admitted to trying to stop the certification of a president is only likely to encourage more people to try similar tactics in the future–to use violence and intimidation to stop democratic proceedings just because they find themselves in a political minority.

That’s basically what Judge Moss told Leduc and Hodgkins.

From BuzzFeed News:

Moss questioned whether a sentence with no prison time would actually encourage other people to assault the Capitol in the future when they didn’t agree with what Congress was doing. The judge turned Leduc’s argument back on him, noting Lincoln also spoke about the need to preserve the government of the people.

“If we allow people to storm the United States Capitol … what are we doing to preserve our democracy in this country?” Moss said.

Leduc also tried to argue that calling the riot domestic terrorism was “gaslighting.” As he described it, the “protest” in the U.S. Capitol was a First Amendment-protected event, similar to the nationwide demonstrations calling for racial justice over the last year.

According to the Washington Post, Moss didn’t even let Leduc finish, cutting him off mid-sentence:

“There were people storming through the halls of the Capitol, shouting, ‘Where’s Nancy?’ ” Moss said. “There were people threatening the lives of members of Congress. There were members of Congress fleeing for their lives. This was more than a simple riot.”

“The chambers of Congress were emptied during the most solemn act in a democracy of certifying who the next president is going to be by an angry mob, [by lawmakers] in fear for their lives. This was not an exercise of First Amendment rights,” the judge added.

Of the approximately 800 rioters, Hodgkins was one of about 50 to step foot on the Senate floor–a point that Moss made central to his sentencing. While the judge emphasized that he was only sentencing Hodgkins, not anyone else, both this case and Anna Morgan-Lloyd’s are undoubtedly setting precedents for the many others still awaiting trial for their acts on January 6.

(via Buzzfeed News, image: Brent Stirton/Getty Images)
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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.