Man Who Entered Senate Chamber With Trump Flag Enters Guilty Plea

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
June 2, 2021 Updated: June 3, 2021

A Florida man who entered the Senate chamber during the U.S. Capitol breach on Jan. 6 has agreed to plead guilty to a felony.

Paul Hodgkins, 38, of Tampa, admitted to obstructing an official proceeding by entering the chamber around 3 p.m. that day and snapping a selfie photograph before congregating with others.

Hodgkins, who was waving a red “Trump 2020” flag, left after about 15 minutes.

Prosecutors dropped four felony charges because he pleaded guilty to obstruction, a felony that could land him up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss accepted the plea in a hearing on June 2.

Hodgkins chose to plead guilty to take responsibility, one of his lawyers said.

“Paul’s an honorable man, a stand-up guy, a former Eagle Scout, and it’s a recognition that he made a mistake,” Patrick Leduc, the attorney, told The Epoch Times. “He feels terrible. He wants to accept responsibility. He understands what he did was wrong.”

Epoch Times Photo
Paul Hodgkins in a selfie photograph in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (FBI)

Closed-circuit television footage showed Hodgkins walking among desks while inside the chamber and taking photographs with his cell phone. At one point, he appeared to put on latex gloves and eye goggles, according to images from the footage included in a criminal complaint. Hodgkins told FBI agents in an interview that he was the person in the photographs.

Leduc sought to differentiate Hodgkins and many others who were charged for their actions on Jan. 6 from a smaller group that has been accused of violent crimes such as assaulting law enforcement officers.

Prosecutors likely recognized that in offering the plea deal, Leduc said.

“They see a guy that, he’s not these guys that were beating up the cops or breaking things—obviously they’re idiots, they’re going to get whacked—but they recognize that here’s a guy with no prior record and all the things I told you, and so he might be a good case,” he said.

The defendant has begun going to church since being charged and attorneys say he’s turned his life around. He currently isn’t in custody.

A prosecutor involved in the case didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Hodgkins is scheduled to be sentenced on July 19 by a federal judge. Sentencing guidelines for first-time offenders such as Hodgkins indicate 15 to 21 months in prison. While Leduc believes his client will likely spend some time behind bars, he’s hopeful the judge will show mercy.

Federal prosecutors have charged some 450 people for crimes related to the Capitol breach, but only one defendant before Hodgkins agreed to a plea deal. That was Jon Schaffer, a member of the Oath Keepers, a group composed of current and former military and law enforcement personnel.

Schaffer’s plea deal included a cooperation component; Hodgkins’s does not.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct type of charges dropped against Hodgkins. The Epoch Times regrets the error.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.