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Thousands rioted at the United States Capitol on January 6th. Many of them broke into and caused $1.4 million in damages to the building. In addition, they injured five in the process of doing so. On July 19, 2021, Florida Trump supporter Paul Hodgkins was sentenced to 8 months in prison for his part in the riot. Although he played a small role, he still left a large impact on America — it was not for the better.
Plea Deals and Sentencing
Unlike other insurrectionists, Hodgkins was one of the first people to surrender. Considering that a photo of him carrying a Donald Trump flag went viral the same day of the insurrection, it was an obvious choice.
After turning himself in, the Trump supporter pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding. Despite this holding a minimum sentence of 20 years, Judge Randolph Moss agreed to lesser charges. For this reason, Hodgkins will only serve 8 months in prison and will have to spend 24 months on supervised release.
Considering that this case will set a precedent for following proceedings, it is interesting that the judge was lenient on Hodgkins’ sentencing. Aside from the financial strain that the insurrection caused, racial tensions and concern about American’s safety heightened. For hours, American citizens and foreign countries watched as the U.S. Capitol was overtaken by insurrectionists. They listened to people call for former Vice President Mike Pence to be hung all because rioters had been told that the election results were false.
Prosecutors highlighted that although Hodgkins was not personally responsible for damaging any property, he still made a series of choices that landed him in court. He traveled from Tampa, Florida, to Washington, D.C., and carried a backpack filled with rope, latex gloves, and protective goggles. This demonstrates that Hodgkins knew the insurrection would be violent to some extent, and yet he continued. At any point before or even during the insurrection, Hodgkins could have decided to report it or walked away.
Instead, Hodgkins chose to continue to participate in the act of domestic terrorism. As a result, various people, from senators to interns, were forced to hide and protect themselves on a day when the world should have been preparing for their next president. January 6th will be remembered for generations to come, and attached to it will be Hodgkin’s sentencing, among 570 others.
The difference in the reaction to the Capitol insurrection in comparison to BLM protests is, nonetheless, interesting. During BLM protests, regardless of whether people were peaceful or not, protestors were met by police officers, curfews, tear gas, and laws that would make it illegal to protest. Whereas the domestic terrorists who participated in the Capitol insurrection are given sentences, numerous elected officials still choose to deny that the insurrection ever happened. One was an attack on American democracy, the other was a call to action, yet the responses are still unequal.
Five lives were lost, and yet insurrectionists are still not being fully held accountable. Hodgkins’ sentencing is the equivalent of robbing a bank and then being told he can take half the money, but he needs to give the rest back. Not only have insurrectionists not been held accountable, but former President Donald Trump has not been held accountable. His sentencing sets the precedent that insurrections will not be held fully accountable for their actions, but it also suggests that America is not interested in protecting democracy.
Opinion News by Reginae Echols
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
Yahoo!News: Florida man who carried a Trump flag through the Senate during the Capitol riot is the first rioter sentenced to felony charges
AP: Capitol rioter who breached Senate gets 8 months for felony
The Guardian: Trump supporter sentenced to eight months in prison for role in Capitol riot
Featured Image Courtesy of Victoria Pickering’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Geoff Livingston’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License