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The first Capitol riot felony prison sentence signals to other insurrectionists that they’ll get a better deal if they accept responsibility


In this file image from U.S. Capitol Police video, Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, of Tampa, Fla., front, stands in the well on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Jan. 6.

A federal judge issued the first felony prison sentence against a Capitol rioter on Monday.
Paul Hodgkins, 38, was sentenced to 8 months in prison and must pay $2,000 in restitution fees.
Former prosecutors say that set a precedent for other Capitol rioters to plead guilty early and accept responsibility.

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A federal judge sentenced a Capitol rioter on Monday to 8 months in prison, less than half the 1.5-year sentence that prosecutors requested.

Paul Hodgkins, 38, traveled to Washington, DC from Florida in January to support former President Donald Trump, according to a criminal complaint. After Trump’s January 6 rally near the White House, Hodgkins walked to the Capitol building, where Congress was in the process of certifying the 2020 election in favor of President Joe Biden. The complaint states that Hodgkins entered the building about at 2:50 p.m., about 30 minutes after both chambers of Congress had evacuated.

Hodgkins was ultimately charged with three separate violations, though he pleaded guilty to a single count of obstruction of an official proceeding. While prosecutors did not accuse Hodgkins of damaging the building, they noted at the sentencing that Hodgkins brought a flag, rope, and white gloves to the Senate floor, which they equated with “intimidation.”

Former prosecutors and legal experts told Insider that the judge’s decision to halve the prosecution’s requested sentence sets a precedent moving forward: if Capitol rioters plead early and accept responsibility, they’ll likely receive a lighter sentence.

Joel Hirschhorn, a criminal defense attorney with Florida-based law firm GrayRobinson, told Insider that one likely reason for Hodgkins’ shorter sentence was how quickly he pleaded guilty.

“We don’t have access to the confidential pre-sentence investigation reports, but I do think that sentence is an accounting principle which all criminal defense lawyers know: FIFO, or first in, first out,” Hirschhorn said. “That means early pleaders and early cooperators generally get the best deals.”

Early pleas help the government process hundreds of Capitol riot cases

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and the founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers, told Insider that admitting fault and owning up to the charges can help reduce a sentence.

“Acceptance of responsibility is a very important principle that judges consider folks that plead early,” Rahmani said. “They save government resources and they save court resources because there will be some defendants here that are on the political fringes as well to push these cases to trial.”

As of mid-July, at least 582 people had been charged with crimes stemming from the insurrection, and 16 people had pleaded guilty in connection with the riot.

Rahmani said federal courts are used to handling longer investigations against “high-level individuals” and are not equipped to process high volumes of “reactive crime.” In other words, the federal …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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