Paul Hodgkins Pleads Guilty to Obstruction

Paul Hodgkins just became the first January 6 defendant to enter into a straight up guilty plea. He pled guilty to one count of obstruction and faces a sentencing range of 15 to 21 months.

The plea provides a hint at how DOJ will deal with straight guilty pleas: Hodgkins got his trespass related crimes dismissed. But he will also face $2,000 restitution for the damage done to the Capitol, on top of whatever he is fined in conjunction with his obstruction charge. My rough count says 170 other January 6 defendants are facing that obstruction charge, many with other more serious crimes on top of it (though a few defendants are challenging it as applied).

The plea hearing also explained what I had noted was the one notable thing about him: that he put on latex gloves before he touched some papers on the Senate desks. In fact, he had them in a First Aid kit he always carries with him, and he put them on to offer Joshua Black — who had an open wound from a plastic bullet that kept bleeding all day — medical care. After Black declined his offer of help, Hodgkins took them back off.

Hodgkins explained that he didn’t know Black (or, it sounds like, anyone else he had stormed the Senate with).

Hodgkins’ statement of offense mentioned twice that he was wearing Trump garb at the time. Judge Randolph Moss repeated that when he was trying to clarify that the picture he was shown did depict Hodgkins.

Given some comments before the hearing started, it sounds like Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco listened in on the public line. This plea was a big deal, because it sets a pattern DOJ surely hopes others will follow.

14 replies
  1. Balifar The Lost says:

    “This plea was a big deal, because it sets a pattern DOJ surely hopes others will follow.”

    Long time listener , 1st time caller. The perception then is that the DOJ wants the non-violent trespassers processed quickly for some reason? I had thought that anything in the federal system tended to take much longer.

    • emptywheel says:

      His lawyer is deploying to the Middle East as a JAG shortly (he was called up in March) so that’s one reason he’s the first to go.

      But I expect a lot more straight pleas to start now that the first person has pled.

  2. bmaz says:

    Welcome first time caller Balifar, call in more often. But, yes, this is exactly how DOJ, and every other significant prosecutorial agency, usually moves up the food chain.

  3. Savage Librarian says:

    Uh oh. It looks like the prospects of a bunch of other insurrectionists just got a lot more serious and gloomier. I’m grateful to all the people who helped make this happen!

  4. ThoughtMail says:

    As the DOJ nibbles more around the edges of the pie, this looks more like a strategy working toward conspiracy charges. As one or more crumble(s) on obstruction, establishing goal congruency in/and the network may, or has, become the objective of the DOJ. Time will tell if this is DOJ’s strategy.

    Unless I’ve completely misread Dr. W’s posts about the connections, this is where it’s going.

  5. Lady4Real says:

    Sadly, these are going to be misdemeanor charges, which means these crazies will serve 1 year (or less) and pay a fine and get to remain armed to the teeth for their next insurrection. They can do a year standing on their heads:(

    • Ravenclaw says:

      I stand ready to be corrected, but I thought the prosecution insisted on a felony conviction. And sentencing guidelines here suggest a minimum of 15 months behind bars. Which, assuming the man to be in fact no more than a “useful idiot” contributing to the smokescreen around the real insurrectionists, is by no means a minor penalty. Was I one of the several hundred other idiots taken along for the ride by my former leader’s sinister myrmidons, I would be very nervous now.

      • bmaz says:

        Yes, it is a felony plea. As Marcy noted the putative sentencing range is 15-21. The actual sentence may be less, home detention or even probation, that is yet to be determined. The significance is that this is the first felony plea.

        • Frank Probst says:

          Does the charge that he pled guilty to (obstruction) have any significance here? My uneducated interpretation here is that he was allowed to plead guilty to something that didn’t scream “1/6 INSURRECTIONIST!!!” when it showed up on any future background checks, but it’s not clear to me what the other charges were that he could have been hit with, or if this factored into the thinking in any significant way.

        • Midtowngirl says:

          The charge is Obstruction of an Official Proceeding [18 U.S.C. $ 1512(c)(2)], which definitely tags him as an insurrectionist.

  6. Tom R. says:

    Some basic questions:
    0) Are the terms of the plea offer visible anywhere? I tried googling for it without success.
    1) True/False: A “straight up” guilty plea stands in contrast to a cooperation agreement, right?
    2) Do we know for sure there is no cooperation agreement in this case? Aren’t there sometimes unadvertised agreements?
    3) True/False: This implies the prosecution thinks he was a lone actor, not part of the PB or OK conspiracies, so he has nothing much to offer in exchange for a better deal, right?
    4) Wouldn’t they want to get at least “some” testimony from the guy, e.g. motivation, intent, and methods? Where does mere allocution end and “cooperation” begin?
    5) True/False: Somebody similarly situated who didn’t plead out and was convicted at trial would face a significantly stiffer sentence, right?

    • Midtowngirl says:

      I’m just a lay person, but I’ll give your questions my best shot: :)
      1. True, a plea agreement isn’t the same as a cooperation agreement. From what I can tell, plea bargains are primarily a tool of the court to quickly process and clear less serious cases from the docket. The defendant pleads guilty to one or more lesser charge(s) in order to have other charges dropped.
      Although a cooperation agreement also requires the defendant to plead guilty to one or more charges, it also requires the defendant to provide valuable information, or otherwise cooperate with LE in exchange for dropped charges and/or more favorable sentencing.
      2(a). There is no cooperation agreement in this case, just a plea.
      2(b). Once again, lay person’s guess here (I’m sure I’ll be corrected in short order if I’m wrong! :) A cooperation agreement can be sealed, but still has to be filed to the docket.
      3. True. This guy was a #seditiontourist
      4. I can’t speak for the FBI. Maybe someone here can? Sorry!
      5. Absolutely! Hodgkins originally had 5 counts against him: Count One: Obstruction of an Official Proceeding and Aiding and Abetting (1-5 years);
      Count Two: Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds (6 months) ;
      Count Three: Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Bldg or Grounds (6 months);
      Count Four: Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building (6 months); and
      Count Five: Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building (6 months)

      So, if charged and convicted of all 5 counts, someone could be sentenced 3 to 5 years, but thanks to the plea, Hodgkins is looking at 15 months to 2 years.

  7. timbo says:


    It’s sad that some folks got caught up in the passion of the moment and have to do jail or prison time. For them, hopefully they’ll come out and not repeat this mistake. As for the others, well, as someone above said, some of them are indeed crazy…and no jail or prison time without serious psychological help is going to help them. Truly sad if our justice system can’t provide that too but danged if we aren’t a shoot-from-the-hip nation when it comes to too much of our institutions nowadays…

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