THE first person to be jailed for his part in the insurrection riot at the Capitol in Washington on January 6 is starting an eight-month sentence in federal prison. On his release he will face 24 months’ probation.

Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, had pleaded guilty last month on one count of entering the Capitol to obstruct Congress. That is a felony in US law, a more serious crime than the misdemeanours which many of the rioters have been charged with.

As was proven by CCTV, Hodgkins committed no violence or damage and the prosecutors acknowledged this. They did, however, press for an 18-month sentence in a bid to set the bar high for future convictions – the prosecution filings stated that each rioter “contributed to the collective threat to democracy”.

The crane operator from Tampa, Florida, was pictured inside the Senate wearing a pro-Trump t-shirt and another Trump flag over his shoulder and not the stars and stripes held by most of the rioters.

“The symbol of that act was unmistakable,” US District Court Judge Randolph Moss told Hodgkins, though he accepted he had not been a leader of the insurrection.

The convicted man took a selfie inside the chamber – it went viral – and that formed part of the prosecution felony case, which could have seen him jailed for up to 20 years. He did a plea bargain to face just one charge with other charges of disorderly conduct dropped in return for his guilty plea.

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In court yesterday, Hodgkins said: “If I had any idea that the protest ... would escalate [the way] it did ... I would never have ventured farther than the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue. This was a foolish decision on my part.

“I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am truly remorseful and regretful for my actions, not because I face consequences but because of the damage that day’s incident caused and the way this country that I love has been hurt.”

Hodgkins’s lawyer asked the judge for leniency, saying any sentence “will pale in comparison” to the lifelong shame he will carry.

Though he accepted that Hodgkins’s apology was “sincere”, Moss hinted that Hodgkins was getting off lightly compared to other accused insurrectionists: “Although you were only one member of a larger mob, you actively participated in a larger event that threatened the Capitol and democracy itself.

“The damage that was caused that way was way beyond a several-hour delay of the vote certification. It is a damage that will persist in this country for several decades.”

Some 535 people have been charged by the FBI in connection with the insurrection.