A Sulphur Springs man became the fourth Florida resident to appear before a federal magistrate judge this week after joining thousands of people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
And compared to the others, Paul Allard Hodgkins got lucky.
The 38-year-old won’t be held in jail without bail until he can be tried on federal charges for breaching Capitol grounds during the certification proceeding for the U.S. presidential election.
Instead, a federal magistrate judge with the District of Columbia upheld Hodgkins’ pretrial release on a $25,000 unsecured bond during a Zoom conference call that served as his first appearance hearing Wednesday.
His release comes with special conditions, though, and a “heightened level of supervision,” said Judge Robin Meriweather.
Hodgkins was required to surrender his firearms and passport, restrict all travel to within the Middle District of Florida and to “stay away from the District of Columbia unless appearing in court.” Hodgkins will be prohibited from possessing any controlled substances, firearms or ammunition and must wear a GPS ankle monitor to ensure he abides by his 1:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. curfew. His next hearing is scheduled for March 9.
Selfies and videos Hodgkins’ posted to the right-wing social media website Parler during the attack led to his arrest in Tampa last week on three federal charges: obstructing or impeding any official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and impeding or disrupting official functions, and violent entry and disorderly conduct in capitol buildings.
In an interview with investigators on Jan. 26, Hodgkins admitted to joining those who stormed the Capitol building just after 2 p.m. on Jan. 6 in a violent clash with Capitol Police that resulted in the deaths of at least five people. The mob forced members of the U.S. House and Senate to evacuate the main chambers and hide in safe rooms and barricaded offices until after 8 p.m., delaying election certification proceedings for more than six hours.
“There is an initial dangerousness in this case that goes beyond many of the defendants that have come before your honor,” Assistant State Attorney Kelly Smith told the court in Hodgkins’ initial appearance on Wednesday.
An unnamed tipster spotted the selfies and contacted the FBI on Jan. 22, according to a federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Feb. 9. The photos showed Hodgkins in the well of the Senate chamber, wearing a dark-colored “Trump” t-shirt and apparently carrying a pair of protective eye goggles under his chin.
FBI agents later spotted Hodgkins in a video taken by a reporter for The New Yorker magazine showing Hodgkins in the Senate Chamber holding a large red flag bearing the “Trump 2020″ slogan. And closed-circuit security footage taken that day showed Hodgkins snapping photos in the Senate chamber with his cell phone before putting on white latex gloves next to piles of documents on a desk where senators had been counting votes, the complaint said.
“The government believes that the defendant’s behavior was particularly jarring and concerning in this case,” Smith said. “Especially with respect to his conduct on Jan. 6 but in addition to the fact that at the time of his arrest, the FBI ultimately confiscated four firearms from his residence including one AK-AR style semi automatic rifle near some marijuana.”
Earlier this week, federal judges heard cases against three other Florida residents who joined the insurrectionists that day. In Tampa on Monday, a federal judge ordered Sarasota small business owner Graydon Young, 54, be held without bail in Pinellas County jail until trial. And in Marion County, a federal judge made the same ruling for a married couple from Dunnellon, Connie Meggs, 59, and her husband Kelly Meggs, 52, who is described in court records as the “self-described leader of the Florida Chapter of the Oath Keepers.” All three were members of the far-right, anti-government militia group, court records said, and face multiple charges for conspiring to obstruct the certification proceedings.
According to the latest data from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, 246 people — 211 men and 34 women — have been arrested on federal charges for their participation in the Capitol Hill siege. Those arrested reside in 40 states and the District of Columbia, records show, and 23 are Florida residents.
The FBI is still looking for others who may have been involved. Anyone with digital material or tips can call 800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or submit images or videos to www.tips.fbi.gov.