Second guilty plea in US Capitol riot probe

 Second guilty plea in US Capitol riot probe

A Florida man has become only the second person so far to enter a guilty plea for taking part in the storming of the US Capitol building.

Paul Hodgkins, 38, entered the Senate chamber wearing a Trump T-shirt and carrying a “Trump 2020” flag.

The crane operator admitted obstructing an official proceeding of Congress.

Hodgkins, of Tampa, is one of at least 450 people charged in the riot. Prosecutors meanwhile dropped charges against another defendant.

A group of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on 6 January, temporarily suspending lawmakers’ certification of Joe Biden as the winner of last November’s presidential election.

Hodgkins had been facing five charges, including disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, but his lawyers managed to negotiate it down to one charge.

Obstructing an official proceeding of Congress carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, but federal sentencing guidelines recommended 15-21 months.

Hodgkins has also agreed to pay $2,000 (£1,410) in damages. Prosecutor Mona Sedky estimated that total damage to the Capitol from the riot was around $1.5m, reports the Washington Post.

Patrick Leduc, Hodgkins’ attorney, described his client as “a working Joe” who spent 15 minutes inside the Capitol building.

“There’s no justification for January 6th,” Mr Leduc said. “That’s why he is standing up and entering a plea of guilty.

“He acknowledges what he did was wrong, and there’s no excuses for it.”

Hodgkins’ plea comes a day after federal prosecutors dropped a criminal case against another man – the first time charges facing a Capitol riot defendant has been abandoned.

Christopher M Kelly was arrested in New York in January on charges that included obstructing an official proceeding.

But on Tuesday a US court agreed to dismiss the case. Prosecutors argued that ending the prosecution served the interests of justice based on “the facts currently known to the government”.

The US Department of Justice has not provided any further information.

The first person to plead guilty in the sprawling investigation was Ryan Schaffer, a heavy metal guitarist and member of the right-wing Oath Keepers group.

On 16 April, he admitted obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress and trespassing on restricted grounds, and agreed to co-operate with prosecutors.

 

Ayomide Oyewole

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