US Capitol rioter who took selfie in Senate chamber pleads guilty

Paul Allard Hodgkins is the second to plead guilty so far, admitting he was on the Senate floor during the riot.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021 [File: Julio Cortez/AP Photo]

A Florida man on Wednesday became the second person so far to plead guilty for his role in storming the US Capitol on January 6, after he entered the US Senate chamber in a Trump T-shirt and waving a red flag that said “Trump 2020”.

Paul Allard Hodgkins pleaded guilty in a virtual hearing to one count of obstructing an official proceeding in the US District Court in Washington, DC.

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

According to the statement of facts that accompanied the criminal complaint, FBI agents interviewed Hodgkins on January 26, showing him “two photographs”, the first being a “‘selfie’-style photo of him in the Senate well, which was obtained from [a confidential witness]”. The second photograph was another on the Senate floor. Hodgkins “admitted to the interviewing agents as being the person in the photographs”.

Images contained in the statement of facts, one of which appears to have been sourced from the New Yorker, show Hodgkins standing next to men clad in tactical gear at the Senate dais (PDF).

Image featured in court documents shows an arrow pointing towards Paul Allard Hodgkins at the Senate dais on January 6, 2021 [Screengab: FBI via PACER]

More than 440 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol riots, in which throngs of former President Donald Trump’s supporters – many of whom were part of far-right movements – entered the Capitol in a failed bid to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory.

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

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.

Kelly is the first defendant in the Capitol riots case to have all his charges dropped.

Lingering effects

Trump and his supporters repeated disproven theories about voter fraud costing him the election for months following November polls that saw Biden’s victory.

Five died after the riot. The Biden administration has directed federal law enforcement to focus on far-right and anti-government threats.

A majority of Trump’s supporters maintain the election was stolen.

The riot’s effects are still being felt in Washington, DC. Lawmakers have sparred over the facts of the day during hearings.

Democrats are seeking a way to investigate events surrounding that day after Senate Republicans blocked an independent probe into the topic last week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed four paths forward, CBS News reported, including keeping the investigation inside a Congressional committee.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, depart a meeting at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on Friday, August 7, 2020 [File: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg]

“Senate Republicans chose to defend the ‘Big Lie’ because they feared that anything that might upset Donald Trump could hurt them politically,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after Republicans blocked the commission.

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

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies