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Capitol rioter who breached Senate gets 8 months for felony

A crane operator from Florida who breached the U.S. Senate chamber carrying a Trump campaign flag was sentenced Monday to eight months behind bars, the first punishment handed down for a felony charge in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and one that could help determine the severity of other sentences in hundreds of pending cases.

In pronouncing the sentence on Paul Allard Hodgkins, U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss said the 38-year-old had played a role, if not as significant as others, in one of the worst episodes in American history. Thousands of rioters loyal to then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol and disrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.

“That was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a protest,” Moss said. “It was … an assault on democracy.” He added: “It left a stain that will remain on us … on the country for years to come.”

Moss acknowledged Hodgkins’ sentence could set a benchmark for future cases.

Hodgkins was disappointed a prison term was imposed, his lawyer, Patrick Leduc, said in a phone interview after Monday’s hearing.

In court, Moss interrupted Leduc to ask if granting the defense request to spare Hodgkins from prison could encourage others disgruntled by the results of a future election to besiege the Capitol.

But the judge said Hodgkins deserved a lesser sentence than the 18 months prosecutors had requested, in part because he didn’t assault anyone, didn’t damage government property and wasn’t among the lead attackers.

Hodgkins apologized to the court and said he felt ashamed. Speaking calmly from a prepared text, he described being caught up in the euphoria as he followed a crowd of hundreds into the Capitol.

“This was a foolish decision on my part,” he said.

He pleaded guilty last month to obstructing an official proceeding.

More than 500 people have been charged so far for their participation in the attack, and many like Hodgkins were accused of serious crimes but were not indicted, as some others were, for roles in larger conspiracies.

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