A man who engaged in non-violent protest at the Capitol on January 6 was sentenced to eight months in prison this week for obstructing an official proceeding, while hundreds charged in violent riots last summer have seen their cases dropped.
Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, of Tampa, Florida, was sentenced Monday after he pleaded guilty to a single felony count of obstructing an official proceeding, after he was identified in videos and photos inside the Senate chamber carrying a Trump 2020 flag.
While the count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and prosecutors asked for 18 months, Hodgkins — who did not engage in any violence or property damage — received eight months, the longest punishment of three sentenced so far.
U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss told Hodgkins, “Although you were only one member of a larger mob, you actively participated in a larger event that threatened the Capitol and democracy itself.”
“The damage that was caused that way was way beyond a several-hour delay of the vote certification,” Moss added. “It is a damage that will persist in this country for several decades.”
Mona Sedky, an assistant U.S. attorney argued that imposing prison time “will send a loud and clear message to other would-be rioters that if and when they’re caught, they will face a serious sentence. So there won’t be a next time.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of people who were arrested in connection with riots last summer have seen their charges dismissed. According to a June 2021 analysis of New York Police Department data by NBC New York, there were 485 arrests in Manhattan, but 222 had their cases were dropped and 73 got lesser counts. Another 40 cases involved juveniles and were sent to family court, and 128 cases remained open. In the Bronx, of 118 arrests made, 73 cases were dismissed, 18 cases remained open, and there were only 19 convictions on counts like trespassing that carried no jail time.
According to a September 2020 Associated Press report, there were already more than 300 arrests on federal crimes since George Floyd’s death – violent crimes including arson for throwing Molotov cocktails and burning police cars, and injuring law enforcement. About one-third of the cases were for crimes in Portland, including assaulting a deputy U.S. marshal with a baseball bat, setting fires and setting off explosives at the federal courthouse and throwing rocks at officers.
According to an April 2021 Wall Street Journal report, federal prosecutors in Portland have moved to dismiss almost half the cases. Of 96 cases the U.S. attorney’s office filed last year charging protesters with federal crimes, including assaulting federal officers, civil disorder, and failing to obey, prosecutors have dropped 47 of them. Only 10 people have pleaded guilty to related charges and two were ordered detained pending trial, but none had yet gone to trial. The penalties levied against any federal defendants largely consisted of “community service, such as working in a food bank or encouraging people to vote,” according to the report.
Four rioters who took part in pro-BLM riots last summer did receive jail time, however, but for setting fire to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct headquarters and causing $12 million in damages. A September 2020 report by Axios said there was an estimated $1 billion-plus in riot damage after Floyd’s death — the most expensive in history.
So far, two others have received sentences in connection with the January 6 Capitol riot — Anna Morgan-Lloyd of Bloomington, Indiana, 49, was sentenced to 36 months of probation after pleading guilty to one charge of demonstrating in a Capitol building; and Michael Curzio of Summerfield, Florida, plead guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to six months in prison, but since he had been in custody for that amount of time since his arrest, he served no additional jail time.