POLITICS

Florida Man Who Stormed Senate Floor With Trump Flag Reaches Plea Deal In Capitol Attack

Paul Hodgkins, who paraded through the Senate chamber with a "Trump 2020" T-shirt and flag, was the second Jan. 6 defendant to strike a plea deal.
Paul Hodgkins on the floor of the U.S. Senate during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Paul Hodgkins on the floor of the U.S. Senate during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

A Florida man who wore a “Trump 2020” T-shirt and carried a Trump flag as he stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 pleaded guilty Wednesday, becoming the second defendant to reach a plea deal in connection with the Capitol attack.

Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of an official proceeding on Wednesday, while four other charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal. Hodgkins told Judge Randolph D. Moss that he had been in counseling through his employer since his arrest.

The agreed-upon statement of offense in the case indicates that Hodgkins entered the U.S. Capitol building with a “dark t-shirt with the word ‘Trump’ in white letters” and “carried a red flag with ‘TRUMP 2020’ in white letters” and took “selfie-style” photos of himself inside the Senate chamber. Under the agreement, Hodgkins admitted that he entered the Capitol building knowing that he wasn’t allowed inside, and that he did so with the intention of obstructing the proceeding inside.

Theoretically, the maximum sentence for the charge is 20 years in prison, but defendants rarely receive the maximum, and Hodgkins (who the government did not allege engaged in any violence) will almost certainly receive a much shorter sentence. The ultimate sentence will be determined by the judge, who will consider Hodgkins’ criminal history and other factors before imposing a sentence. Judge Moss said that, based on what he knows today, the sentencing recommendation under the guidelines would be between 15 and 21 months in prison.

Hodgkins was arrested in Florida on a criminal complaint on Feb. 16 after a witness who knew Hodgkins told the FBI he’d received a copy of a selfie Hodgkins posted on Parler that showed him on the floor of the Senate. Hodgkins told FBI agents that he traveled to Washington alone by bus before the Jan. 6 attack, according to the criminal complaint in his case. Hodgkins was indicted by a federal grand jury March 5 on five counts: obstructing an official proceeding, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

Hodgkins is the second Jan. 6 defendant to plead guilty in the Capitol attack. Jon Schaffer, a heavy-metal guitarist associated with the Oath Keepers, pleaded guilty to two counts in mid-May.

Federal authorities have charged more than 400 defendants in connection with the Capitol attacks, and hundreds of more arrests are expected. The FBI received hundreds of thousands of tips in connection with the Capitol attack, and the unprecedented investigation has at times overwhelmed federal authorities.

Most federal cases end in plea deals. Especially given the strain that the Capitol cases have put on the federal courthouse in the District of Columbia, it’s likely that many more plea deals are in the pipeline. The government has indicated it is discussing plea offers in a number of prominent Capitol riot cases. A government attorney said Tuesday that they hoped to extend plea offers to a number of defendants charged in the Oath Keepers case in the coming weeks.