TAMPA — In a bid to spare his client from prison time, a lawyer for the Tampa man who was among the first of more than 500 criminal defendants to admit that he participated in the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol has asked a federal judge not to “cancel” him.
A 32-page sentencing memo filed Thursday in the case of Paul Allard Hodgkins references cancel culture, makes religious overtones and includes lengthy asides about the American Civil War. The memo describes Hodgkins’ role in the riots as minimal as it denotes his good character traits, describing him as an Eagle Scout who volunteers helping animals and people.
“A significant percentage of our population will ‘cancel’ Mr. Hodgkins because of 15 minutes of bad judgment, casting stones in his directions, all the while never fully realizing their own indiscretions and hypocrisy,” Tampa attorney Patrick Leduc wrote. “Mr. Hodgkins will have to wear this scarlet letter long after the sentence of this court is fully served.”
Hodgkins, 38, is set to be sentenced July 19 in federal court in Washington, D.C. He pleaded guilty last month to a single charge of obstruction of an official proceeding.
He was arrested in February after FBI agents received a tip that identified him in pictures and video footage from the Jan. 6 riots. One of hundreds who breached the Capitol Building, Hodgkins was among a smaller group that managed to get inside the evacuated U.S. Senate chamber.
A reporter from the New Yorker magazine recorded video showing Hodgkins and others in the Senate. In the video, Hodgkins wears a dark-colored “Trump” T-shirt with leather arm bands and a dark undershirt. He has safety goggles under his chin. He holds a red “Trump 2020″ flag as the group chants, shouts and prays.
FBI agents also obtained a selfie that Hodgkins took while inside the Senate.
Hodgkins has remained free since shortly after his arrest.
Federal sentencing guidelines suggest he could receive between 15 and 21 months in prison.
His attorney asked a judge for a sentence that does not include incarceration. The sentencing memo states that he never touched or took anything from the Capitol, having only spent about 15 minutes inside. It describes him as simply following the crowd, and notes he committed no violent acts. He came to Washington alone on a bus from Tampa.
But for the fact that he entered the Senate, Hodgkins may only have faced misdemeanor charges, similar to others who entered the building.
“We now live in a country that seeks to cancel one another,” Leduc wrote. “It is the end state and the result of becoming a post-Christian society. A nation of citizens that have yet to experience Godly grace finds it next to impossible to give grace to each other. The result is that we have become a nation that no longer sees each other as brothers/sisters traveling in a disjointed and fallen world in need of each other’s support and generosity, but rather as potential enemies to be destroyed.”
The memo references the bloodshed of the American Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, drawing a comparison to the nation’s modern political divisions. It urges the court to emulate Lincoln, and “exercise grace and charity,” and to “restore healing.”
The memo describes Hodgkins as living “paycheck to paycheck,” and notes that since January he has spent more than 100 hours volunteering with Feeding Tampa Bay, Metropolitan Ministries of Tampa Bay and the Humane Society.
He rents a home in the Sulphur Springs area, a working-class neighborhood in Tampa. Several friends and acquaintances submitted letters to the court, attesting to his kindness, compassion and good work ethic.
“In short, Paul Hodgkins is an upstanding citizen,” Leduc wrote, “a man of conviction and courage, and emblematic of every quality we want in our fellow Americans.”
The document juxtaposes the selfie Hodgkins took in the Senate chamber with another he took during Easter church services three months later.
Looking at the Senate selfie, “I see a man who looks lost, and who lost his way,” Leduc wrote.
But looking at the church picture, “I see a man born again. A man who found a church home for the first time in his life, and the look of a man who has found the freedom that one receives when one experiences heavenly grace.”
Correction: Paul Hodgkins is 38. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect age.