By Edward Epstein
July 20, 2021
Abraham Lincoln's words and wisdom played a central role Monday as the first person sentenced for a felony in the violent Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol was sent to federal prison for eight months and ordered to pay $2,000 as his share of rioters' damage to the historic building.
Both the attorney defending Paul Allard Hodgkins, a 38-year-old Floridian, and U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss invoked Lincoln during the multi-hour hearing in Washington, D.C. The judge, of course, had the final word in sentencing Hodgkins, a crane operator, after he pleaded guilty on June 2 to a sole count of obstructing a joint session of Congress held to confirm Joe Biden's Electoral College win over Donald Trump in last November's election.
Hodgkins' lawyer Patrick Leduc asked for probation or house arrest. In doing so, he urged Moss to look to the example of a compassionate Lincoln and his words in his second inaugural address delivered on March 4, 1865. In that speech, delivered in the closing days of the wrenching, bloody Civil War, Lincoln said, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle."
According to the Washington Post, "Leduc urged Moss to heed the words in Lincoln's second inaugural address and show grace that each side of the partisan divide would claim for itself and deny the other."
But when it was Moss' turn, the judge rejected Leduc's invocation of Lincoln's words. According to the Post, he said Lincoln's Gettysburg Address conveyed the message that the Union fought the Civil War to ensure that "government of the people, by the people, for the people did not perish from the earth."
"If we allow people to storm the U.S. Capitol when they don't like what the U.S. Senate or House of Representative are doing, what are we doing to preserve democracy in our country?" Moss asked, according to the Post.
He then sentenced Hodgkins to eight months in prison. The federal prosecutors had sought a term of 15 to 21 months in jail. Hodgkins had spent 15 minutes in the Senate chamber during the rioting, carrying a flag supporting Trump and taking photos, according to information from the prosecution.
Hodgkins, one of about 540 people who have been charged in the insurrection, was apologetic when he spoke in court. "I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am truly remorseful and regretful for my actions in Washington. This was a foolish decision on my part that I take full responsibility for it," he said, as quoted in USA Today.
He also acknowledged that Biden "is the rightful and respectful president of the United States."