US Capitol riots: Second guilty plea in sprawling probe

Paul Hodgkins inside the US Capitol, 6 January 2021

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.