Does Hodgkins sentence mean judges will go easy on Capitol rioters?

Paul Hodgkins becomes the first insurrectionist to learn his fate and gets 8 months in prison.

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Capitol rioter
Paul Allard Hodgkins running riot on Jan. 6
(AP)

In the end, the judge gave him less than half the jail time prosecutors had asked for. But it was still far more than the non-custodial penalty that his lawyers had pleaded for.

Paul Allard Hodgkins, who breached the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, was sentenced to 8 months behind bars on Monday. The sentencing represents the first given to any Capitol rioter for a felony plea and legal experts believe it could set the tone for dozens more cases to come .

Hodgkins, 38, told the court that he was ashamed of his actions and said he became caught up in the moment when he joined the mob that was already streaming into the Capitol building on that fateful day.

“If I had any idea that the protest … would escalate (the way) it did … I would never have ventured farther than the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Hodgkins told the judge, adding, “This was a foolish decision on my part.”

Prosecutors had requested a sentence of 18 months, arguing in a recent filing that Hodgkins “like each rioter, contributed to the collective threat to democracy” by forcing lawmakers to temporarily halt their certification of President Biden’s election victory.

Hodgkins was seen on videos and photos of the siege holding a “Trump 2020” flag over his shoulder on the Senate floor. He was also wearing a “Trump 2020” T-shirt and goggles around his neck as he took selfies with other rioters on the dais behind him.

In announcing the sentence, Judge Randolph Moss explained that he had to balance a number of different factors in reaching his decision. The judge called the Capitol attack “an assault on Democracy,” but said Hodgkins’ lack of criminal history and willingness to accept responsibility warranted a lower sentence. Hodgkins’ eight-month prison sentence will be followed by two years of supervised release.

The Tampa man pleaded guilty in June to one count of obstructing an official proceeding — which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence — after prosecutors agreed to drop four other misdemeanor counts against him.

Legal experts and other commentators had been keenly awaiting Judge Moss’s decision as they believe the sentence could signal the likely punishments other Capitol riot defendants will face.

Prosecutors said earlier this month that nearly 235 defendants had been charged with the same crime to which Hodgkins pleaded guilty.

Even Hodgkins’ own team acknowledged how pivotal their client’s fate may prove for the many others yet to face justice.

“It appears the entire nation will be tuning in,” Hodgkins’ lawyer, Patrick LeDuc, told CBS News at the weekend.

Will judges around the country now follow Moss’s lead and impose relatively light sentences?

Certainly, they face competing pressures. There is, of course, widespread outrage about what transpired on Jan. 6. At the same time, however, many defendants are older, sometimes eccentric folks, with no real criminal histories.

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