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The first prison sentence for one of the many rioters in the U.S. Senate is given to a Floridian man on July 19, 2021, who pleaded guilty in exchange for an eight-month term. But, as the first of over 525 other cases, it influences the rulings of the other arrested rioters punished.
Paul Hodgkins, 38, is the first of many rioters that stormed the Senate Chamber in an attempt to obstruct the electoral vote certification of Joe Biden’s presidency — the rioters believe the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.
During the Senate storming, Hodgkins spent approximately 15 minutes inside the building while wearing a Trump shirt and flag. In his statement to the court, he reported he was caught up in the moment. But, then, he told the judge, “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.”
Despite his claim, the prosecutor still called for 18 months in prison. Although the actions of every rioter that day caused lawmakers, with family and friends at home, to scramble for shelter and because of his “contribute to the collective threat to democracy,” both the judge and prosecutors found it a good reason to lay a heavier punishment on the man.
Judge Randolph Moss sentenced Hodgkins to less than a year in prison despite vocalizing his feelings on the riot. However, despite the leniency in the length of the Hodgkins charge, judges have not budged when approaching the case of other riot participants.
When charging Robert Morss, a leading participant in the capitol riot, he was deemed “dangerous” and charged with seven felonies and two misdemeanors.
At the hearing, Judge Michael Harvey said, “He came to the Capitol, suited up for violence, was an active and enthusiastic participant in the riot, for a sustained period of time. He’s in a different category of dangerousness.”
Unlike Hodgkins, video evidence showing Morss in riot gear and organizing the rest of the mob was presented. The video also caught him forcefully engaging with the D.C. and Capitol police.
Morss’s hearing took place July 20, following two previous hearings where prosecutors argued how dangerous Morss is to the community. These arguments were furthered because Morss has previous Army Ranger training, which he utilized during the riot. His background and mental health were also called into question when he refused to cooperate with questioning prosecutors about the subject.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Jackson pointed towards Morss’s action after the riot on January 6, 2021; he moved out of his apartment, leaving behind the clothes worn during the riot, several handguns, and a notebook detailing “how to build a local militia.”
Evidence showed he posed as a flight risk was also discovered through his text messages to a friend in which he stated, “I’m pretty shook up, I’m wigging out. I’m considering leaving the country.”
Many more rioters are now facing more charges, some varying depending on the severity of their actions.
Written by Brielle R. Buford
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
NPR: Capitol Rioter Paul Who Walked On Senate Floor On Jan. 6 Sentenced To 8 Months In Prison; by Ryan Lucas
WPXI: Judge calls Shaler man “dangerous” and orders him to remain in jail on Capitol riot charges
CBS News: More than 535 arrested so far in Capitol riot case, while more than 300 suspects remain unidentified; by Clare Hymes, Cassidy McDonald, Eleanor Watson
CBS News: Capitol rioter gets eight months in prison in first felony sentencing from January 6 attack; by Cassidy McDonald, Clare Hymes
Images Courtesy of Blink O’fanaye’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License