Florida man accused of storming U.S. Capitol pleads guilty

Florida man accused of storming U.S. Capitol pleads guilty

June 2, 2021

By Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball 

  WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A Florida man on Wednesday became the second person so far to plead guilty for his role in storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, after he entered the Senate chamber clad in a Trump T-shirt and waving a red flag that said "Trump 2020." 

  In a virtual hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, Paul Allard Hodgkins pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing an official proceeding. 

  "I have decided that I will accept this plea offer, and I will plead guilty," Hodgkins told the judge. 

  The charge can carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, though U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss said federal sentencing guidelines call for a sentence in the range of 15 to 21 months. 

  More than 440 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol riots, in which throngs of Republican former President Donald Trump's supporters entered the Capitol in a failed bid to stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden's presidential election victory. 

  Few guilty pleas have been entered so far https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-capitol-arrests-pleas-idCAKCN2D211H since the Justice Department launched its sweeping investigation into the deadly attack on the Capitol, in a sign that prosecutors are driving a tough bargain. 

  The only other person to plead guilty so far was Jon Schaffer, founder of the band Iced Earth and a founding member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia. 

  Schaffer pleaded guilty in April https://reut.rs/3pcrVxQ to obstructing an official proceeding and breaching a restricted building. 

  Wednesday's hearing came at the same time that Christopher M. Kelly, another defendant in the Capitol riots cases, had all charges against him dropped after evidence came to light that he had never set foot inside the building. 

  The decision by Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui marks the first time a defendant in the Capitol riots cases has been cleared of all charges, and comes after a paid confidential source helped the FBI build the case using information from Kelly's Facebook account. 

  "He never entered the Capitol on January 6th and that is precisely what he told the government before he was arrested," his attorney, Edward MacMahon Jr., said in a statement. 

  A Justice Department representative previously declined to comment on the case. 

  (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Franklin Paul, David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis) 

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