Man gets 8 months in prison after carrying “Trump” flag on Senate floor, yet hundreds of BLM riot cases dismissed

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TAMPA, FL- A man who engaged in non-violent protest at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th has been sentenced to eight months in prison for obstructing an official proceeding, yet hundreds charged in violent protests during summer 2020 have seen their cases dropped.

38-year-old Paul Allard Hodgkins who was seen carrying a large red “Trump 2020” flag on the floor of the U.S. Senate on January 6th, was sentenced after pleading guilty to a single felony count of obstructing an official proceeding.

Hodgkins was identified in videos and photos from inside the Senate chamber. While the count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and prosecutors asked for 18 months, Hodgkins who did not engage in any violent or property damage, received eight months.

His sentence is the longest punishment of three sentenced so far. U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss of Washington, said in a statement:

“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.”

Mona Sedky, an assistant U.S. attorney argued that imposing prison time on Hodgkins “will send a loud and clear message” to “other would-be rioters” that if and when “they’re caught, they will face a serious sentence, so there won’t be a next time.”

Hodgkin’s lawyer, Patrick Leduc, urged the judge not to impose a prison sentence, saying in a court filing that:

“Hodgkins is law abiding, hardworking, honest, caring, kind, thoughtful, generous, and the kind of person you would want for a neighbor.”

The court filing added:

“On the day of the riot, he lost his bearings and his way…made a fateful decision to follow the crowd, and found himself for approximately 15 minutes in a place that he sincerely regrets to have been.”

Hodgkins told the judge that he regrets his actions and would not have entered the Capitol if he had known of the violent acts committed inside. He stated:

“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.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of people who were arrested in connection with violent riots during summer 2020 have seen their charges dismissed.

According to a June 2021 analysis of New York Police Department data by NBC New York, there were 485 arrests in Manhattan, but 222 had their cases dropped and 73 got lesser counts.

Another 40 cases involved juveniles and were sent to family court and 128 cases remained open. In the Bronx, of the 118 arrests made, 73 cases were dismissed, 18 cases remain open, and there were only 19 convictions on counts like trespassing that carried no jail time. 

According to a September 2020 Associated Press report, there were already more than 300 arrests on federal crimes since the death of George Floyd, including violent crimes like arson for throwing Molotov cocktails and burning police cars, and injuring law enforcement.

Nearly one-third of the cases were for crimes in Portland, including assaulting a deputy U.S. marshal with a baseball bat, setting fires and setting off explosives at the federal courthouse, and throwing rocks at officers. 

An April 2021 Wall Street Journal report stated that federal prosecutors in Portland have moved to dismiss almost half the cases. Of 96 cases the U.S. attorney’s office filed last year charging protesters with federal crimes, including assaulting federal officers, civil disorder, and failing to obey, prosecutors have dropped 47 of them. 

According to the report, only 10 people have pleaded guilty to related charges and two were ordered detained pending trial, but none have yet gone to trial.

Also, the penalties levied against any federal defendants have largely consisted of “community service, such as working in a food bank or encouraging people to vote.”

So far, two others have received sentences in connection with the January 6th Capitol riot. 49-year-old Anna Morgan-Lloyd of Bloomington, Indiana was sentenced to 36 months of probation after pleading guilty to one charge of demonstrating in a Capitol building.

Michael Curzio of Summerfield, Florida, plead guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to six months in prison, but since he had been in custody for that amount of time since his arrest, he served no additional jail time.

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Report: Parler did, in fact, alert FBI to posted threats prior to Capitol riot

March 27th, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC – In a recent letter to the House Oversight Committee Chairwoman, Parler alleged that in the weeks leading up to the violent uprising at the Capitol in January, the conservative social media network did wind up flagging certain content posted on its platform and shared it with the FBI prior to the riot.

Lawyers for the site said in a letter dated March 25th to House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney that the organization had referred violent material posted on the platform to the FBI more than 50 times.

The lawyers pointed out that some of the flagged posts contained threats directed at the Capitol, where five people were killed during a riot that briefly prevented Congress from confirming President Biden’s electoral college victory.

Contained within the letter from March 25th, the lawyers pointed to how the company was unjustly maligned as being inactive regarding alerting authorities to possible criminal activities being planned or discussed:

“Far from being the far-right instigator and rogue company that Big Tech has portrayed Parler to be, the facts conclusively demonstrate that Parler has been a responsible and law-abiding company focused on ensuring that only free and lawful speech exists on its platform.”

A screenshot of what appears to be an email correspondence between Parler and the FBI is included in the letter.

https://twitter.com/rachelbovard/status/1375185916134850566

The FBI reportedly declined to comment on the allegations brought forth by Parler.

Parler, which bills itself as a free speech alternative to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, has been chastised by the media and elected officials for reportedly hosting a lot of content that emboldened the storming of Congress before the 6th of January.

Ironically, after the dust settled regarding the Capitol riot in January and Parler was effectively de-platformed from the Apple and Google app stores and Amazon’s Web Services that hosted Parler, it would later be determined that Facebook wound up being the most pervasive platform in orchestrating the criminal activities from January 6th.

Prior to it being discovered that Facebook was the preferred platform of the Capitol rioters to orchestrate their efforts, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg grievously downplayed Facebook’s role in what occurred on January 6th:

“I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have [Facebook’s] abilities to stop hate and don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency.”

The reason the March 25th letter from Parler’s legal team was directed to Rep. Maloney was because she had previously demanded answers regarding the platform and had asked for an FBI investigation into the role Parler played in the riot at the Capitol.

In a statement released the same day of the letter getting sent, ranking member of the House Oversight Committee James Comer said the March 25th letter “fully debunked Chairwoman Maloney’s claims as not only baseless, but outrageous and entirely fictitious,” while still pressing for Twitter and Facebook to also be investigated.

Rep. Maloney has yet to comment on the letter from Parler’s attorney or Rep. Comer’s recent statement.

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The drama that surrounded Parler in the weeks after the Capitol riot extended to more than those who just allegedly attended the Capitol on January 6th. 

One woman wound up getting let go from her company for simply having a Parler profile. 

Here’s that report from January. 

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NEW YORK CITY, NY – According to reports, the president of a literary agency based out of New York City announced that they had terminated an employee simply because they had used social media platform alternatives Parler and Gab.

No evidence of unsavory posts, no details about spicy takes on controversial topics – fired simply for having found to have been on the platforms.

The woman who was fired from Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency identified herself as Colleen Oefelein on Twitter. In her Twitter bio, Oefelein showcased that she was based out of Alaska, is an avid “bookworm”, and worked for “NY’s JDlit” – a.k.a., Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.

Jennifer De Chiara, who serves as the literary agency’s president and senior agent, confirmed that Oefelein was terminated on January 25th after being made aware that the former employee was simply using alternative social media:

“The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency was distressed to discover this morning, January 25th, that one of our agents has been using the social media platforms Gab and Parler. We do not condone this activity, and we apologize to anyone who has been affected or offended by this.”

“The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency has in the past and will continue to ensure a voice of unity, equality, and one that is on the side of social justice.”

“As of this morning, Colleen Oefelein is no longer an agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.”

Now, it’s unclear exactly how the employer became aware that Oefelein was using Parler and Gab, but at least one post on Twitter that was dated November 11th of 2020 by Oefelein reads as follows:

“I’m now also posting on Parler. It’s a great platform with no censorship! Giving away a few critiques there next week. Come find me @ColleenOefelein. #WritingCommunity #Writer #askagent”

So, perhaps that may have been the tweet that at least exposed Oefelein’s use of Parler.

But when looking at the context of the post where she proclaimed to be on the social network, it’s not as though it seemed she was using the platform for nefarious or vitriolic purposes.

By all means, it looks as though she was just trying to capitalize on a new platform for her to continue the types of social media posts she normally produces.

After reviewing her history on Twitter, we at Law Enforcement Today found that Oefelein’s posts typically revolve around the common obstacles of literary writing, and some cheeky posts that are basically vanilla-laced humor.

It also turns out that Oefelein is a retired Air Force captain who was the victim of a 2007 attack that made national headlines when her then-boyfriend’s (now husband) ex-girlfriend had driven 900 miles from Houston to Orlando to assault her.

One aspect to keep in mind is that there wasn’t any evidence that Oefelein was crafting some dubious posts on either social media platform – simply using the platforms was the offense cited by the former employer.

But another question about this matter is whether this termination is illegal.

Of course, private companies aren’t compelled to mirror the honoring of the First Amendment as the government does – because private companies aren’t the government.

However, there is the matter of state law in New York – and whether there was some sort of employment law violation breached in this metaphorical witch hunt.

Eugene Volo, who serves as the Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law at UCLA, explored this concept relating to this case – and his findings show that there’s legal gray area all around.

One of the aspects pointed out by Volo is that while Oefelein’s former employer is based out of New York – Oefelein is based out of Alaska. This brings the question of whether a legal complaint would be examined under New York law or Alaska law.

While New York has an amalgamation of laws that protect employees from being terminated due to “an individual’s legal recreational activities outside work hours,” Alaska doesn’t afford such employee protections.

Another element that is unclear is whether Oefelein was actually an employee in the traditional sense, which Volo notes in his analysis that he’s merely assuming her to not be a 1099 contractor:

“Let’s assume for this that the article is correct in describing Oefelein as an employee; the law may not apply to certain kinds of independent contractors.”

But even everything that is legal and off-premises of someone’s work site – even in New York – has been deemed as not a “recreational activity” protected by New York’s employment laws. Volo went on to cite the 2008 case of Kolb v. Camilleri, where an employee was fired for picketing at a protest on his own time.

Another cited case text was that of Hudson v. Goldman Sachs, where the Supreme Court of New York found that “romantic relationships are not protected recreational activities.”

But then there’s the case of Cavanaugh V. Doherty, which showed that the Supreme Court of New York recognizes that a mere political disagreement or argument outside of work can’t result in someone being fired.

Needless to say, it’s strange territory in a legal sense for this matter. However, it’s also alarming that people are losing their jobs for simply choosing to utilize alternative social media platforms.

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