First person sentenced for felony in Jan. 6 riot wants to take back guilty plea
The first person to be sentenced for a felony in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack now says he was bullied by his attorney into pleading guilty and would like to take it back.
The request filed Thursday offers insight into the negotiations going on in hundreds of criminal cases stemming from the deadly Capitol insurrection.
Paul Hodgkins, 38, was sentenced in July to eight months in prison after pleading guilty to one felony count of obstructing a joint session of Congress meeting to confirm the results of the 2020 president election. While he did not engage in violence, he carried a Trump flag onto the Senate floor, which lawmakers had been forced to flee. A federal prosecutor had asked for an 18-month sentence, calling the riot "an act of terrorism."
At that hearing, Hodgkins said that he understood he "may have helped embolden others to carry out the destruction that occurred."
Now, however, Hodgkins says through a new attorney that he "did not want to plead guilty to a felony" and was "rushed into everything" by his defense lawyer Patrick Leduc.
According to his new lawyer, Carolyn Stewart, Leduc inaccurately told Hodgkins that all the charges against him were felonies and that he would likely not receive jail time.
"One might wonder whose team Mr. Hodgkins' former attorney was on," she wrote in a Thursday filing.
The deadline for Hodgkins to appeal his sentence has passed, but Stewart argues that he was not fully informed of his rights and should be granted more time.
Leduc, who was deployed overseas with the Army Reserves not long after Hodgkins's sentencing, declined to comment. In email exchanges included in court filings, he told Stewart that he got the best possible deal for Hodgkins.
"My strategy paid off to Paul's benefit," he wrote. "No other Federal defendant who is pleading to a felony will get a sentence better than Paul." LeDuc added that he was trying to be as helpful as possible but that it was difficult to share documents from Qatar, where he is helping process Afghan refugees.
The Department of Justice has insisted that anyone who entered the Senate chamber on Jan. 6 plead guilty to a felony. Some defense attorneys had urged the others to hold out and see if the government relented at the prospect of going to trial in hundreds of cases. But Leduc told Stewart that "the United States makes offers with a take it or leave it attitude."
While one D.C. judge has questioned the constitutionality of the felony to which Hodgkins pleaded, others have expressed frustration that more riot participants aren't being charged with more serious crimes. Another man who entered the Senate chamber without violence, "QAnon Shaman" Jacob Chansley, pleaded guilty to the same felony charge Friday. Prosecutors estimated his guidelines at 41 to 51 months. Hodgkins remains the only rioter to be sentenced on a felony charge.
The Washington Post's Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.