U.S. judge gives Florida man 8 months in prison in Capitol attack

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge on Monday handed down an eight-month prison sentence to Floridian Paul Hodgkins for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, making him the first among hundreds of accused rioters facing prosecution to be incarcerated.

Hodgkins, 38, pleaded guilty on June 2 to obstruction of an official proceeding, as Congress was in the process of formally certifying Joe Biden’s election last November as U.S. president when supporters of former President Donald Trump rampaged through the building.

At a sentencing hearing on Monday, prosecutor Mona Sedky told U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss that Hodgkins, a Tampa resident, donned goggles before entering the Senate chamber during the riot and “proudly posed for selfies,” which he texted to friends.

Sedky acknowledged that Hodgkins did not destroy any property “and he did not injure anyone.”

In a statement to the court, Hodgkins said he was “remorseful and regretful” for his actions in Washington and acknowledged that these actions may have emboldened others to engage in destructive acts.

“This was a foolish decision on my part that I take full responsibility for,” Hodgkins told the court.

Moss agreed that Hodgkins had not been violent, did not threaten anyone and did not organize the Capitol attack. But the judge said that Hodgkins went to the Capitol “to impede the certification of the election, and he admitted that he did so.”

The judge said that while he believes that Hodgkins’ participation in the riot was an “aberration in his life,” he also believed that the Jan. 6 attack had “tarnished” U.S. history and that it is necessary to deter future rioters.

More than 535 people have been charged with taking part in the attack, an unsuccessful attempt to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory over Trump, who had falsely claimed the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud.

While other accused Jan. 6 rioters have entered guilty pleas, Hodgkins became the first to be sentenced to prison.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Will Dunham)

Red Cross reveals that children held in northeast Syria prisons

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – Hundreds of children are incarcerated in adult prisons in northeastern Syria, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday, disclosing their plight as inmates for the first time.

The children, mostly boys, have been removed to prisons from al-Hol, a desert camp run by Syrian Kurdish forces for 60,000 people from more than 60 countries associated with Islamic State (IS) fighters, the aid agency said. Most are women and children who fled there after IS’s last enclaves collapsed two years ago.

“Hundreds of children, mostly boys, some as young as 12, are detained in adult prisons, places they simply do not belong,” Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC regional director for the Middle East, told a news briefing.

The ICRC made 36 visits to places of detention across Syria last year, the only agency with such access. It requires private talks with inmates on their treatment and conditions, but its confidential findings are shared only with the authorities.

It has access to some places of detention in northeast Syria – a Syrian Kurdish-controlled area – a spokeswoman said, declining to give details.

The ICRC also renewed its appeal for countries to repatriate their nationals from the al-Hol camp and keep families together, “as international law requires”.

Carboni, who has visited al-Hol four times in the past two years, said: “I really can’t get used to seeing so many children behind barbed wire.”

The ICRC runs a field hospital and provides food and water at the sprawling site. Medical needs remain huge, with a rise in resident children dying last year, including some from preventable conditions, Carboni said.

UNICEF said eight children under 5 years old had died at the camp last August, half from malnutrition-related complications. The other deaths had been due to dehydration from diarrhea, heart failure, internal bleeding and hypoglycemia, the U.N. children’s agency said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alex Richardson)