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Florida man sentenced to 8 months in prison for involvement in Capitol riot: 'Foolish decision'

U.S. Capitol
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protest outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. |

A Florida man has been sentenced to eight months in prison and ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution for his involvement in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, becoming the first felon tied to the protests.

Paul Hodgkins, a 38-year-old from Tampa who previously pled guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding, was handed the sentence on Monday by U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss.

“Although Mr. Hodgkins was only one member of a larger mob, he actively and intentionally participated in an event that threatened not only the security of the Capitol but democracy itself,” stated Moss, as reported by USA Today.

“It is essential to send a message that this type of conduct is utterly unacceptable and that grave damage was done to our country that day.”

The prison sentence was shorter than the recommended 18-month sentence requested by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Sedky.

The judge added that he did not think that Hodgkins “is a threat or that he is inherently an evil person,” but was someone who “made some very bad decisions that day” and did “some really bad things that day that did some real damage to the country.”

Hodgkins was one of several protesters to enter the Senate chamber during the Jan. 6 protests. He carried a “Trump 2020” flag and wore a pro-Trump shirt. He also took photos of himself.

He was arrested in February after a witness identified him in one of the photos he sent out to people he knew. He was indicted by a grand jury in March on five counts.

The counts include obstruction of an official proceeding; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct inside a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct within a Capitol building; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

In June, Hodgkins signed a “Statement of Offense” in which he acknowledged that he had unlawfully entered the Senate chamber and obstructed official constitutional proceedings.

According to charging documents, Hodgkins told authorities that while he was walking through the Capitol, he saw other people breaking windows and some engaging in a knife fight. He assured that he did not participate in that conduct. 

According to USA Today, Hodgkins asked not to be sentenced to prison, adding that he did not plan to enter the Capitol when he attended Trump's rally earlier in the day. He claims to have gotten swept up in a march along Pennsylvania Avenue. Hodgkins said he even apologized to police officers and offered help to an injured rioter. 

“I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am truly remorseful and regretful for my actions in Washington," Hodgkins was quoted as telling the court. “This was a foolish decision on my part that I take full responsibility for it."

On Jan. 6, as Congress met to certify the results of the 2020 election, hundreds of Trump supporters left a National Mall rally featuring former President Donald Trump and stormed Capitol Hill. 

For hours, large numbers of protesters occupied the U.S. Capitol, resulting in extensive property damage as well as numerous injuries to law enforcement officers and demonstrators alike.

While media reports have indicated that five people died during the riot, the lone person killed by lethal force was an unarmed U.S. Air Force veteran who was shot in the neck by an officer while trying to climb through a smashed door pane into the House chamber. 

Three others who died include a woman trampled by the crowd, one person who suffered a heart attack and another individual who had a stroke. 

On June 24, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that more than 500 arrests were made of those involved in the Jan. 6 riot. 

“I could not be more proud of the extraordinary effort by investigators and prosecutors to hold accountable those who engaged in criminal acts that day,” stated Garland.

“Particular credit goes to those serving as prosecutors and agents in Washington, D.C., as well as those in FBI field offices and U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country, and with the Department’s National Security Division.”

According to Garland, federal investigators received over 200,000 tips from “the American public,” which were vital to bringing criminal charges against the protesters.

“I assure the American people that the Department of Justice will continue to follow the facts in this case and charge what the evidence supports to hold all January 6th perpetrators accountable," Garland added. 

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