A crane operator from Florida who breached the U.S. Senate chamber carrying a Trump campaign flag was sentenced Monday to eight months behind bars, the first punishment handed down for a felony charge in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and one that could help determine the severity of other sentences in hundreds of pending cases. In pronouncing the sentence on Paul Allard Hodgkins, U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss said the 38-year-old had played a role, if not as significant as others, in one of the worst episodes in American history. Thousands of rioters loyal to then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol and disrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s election win, in a stunning display of public violence. “That was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a protest,” Moss said. “It was … an assault on democracy.” He added: “It left a stain that will remain on us … on the country for years to come.” Moss acknowledged Hodgkins’ sentence could set a benchmark for future cases. Deciding an appropriate punishment for Hodgkins, he said, was more challenging because the case is unique and the court couldn’t look to previous sentencings as a guide. Hodgkins was disappointed a prison term was imposed, his lawyer, Patrick Leduc, said in a phone interview after Monday’s hearing. He said Hodgkins was heading back to his hometown of Tampa to organize his affairs — which will include speaking to his employer about whether imprisonment will cost him his job — before reporting to prison in several months. “He’s hurt. He’s sad,” Leduc said. “Life is coming at him at 100 mph.” More than 500 people have been charged so far for their participation in the attack, and many like Hodgkins were accused of serious crimes but were not indicted, as some others were, for roles in larger conspiracies. They will have to decide whether to plead guilty or go to trial. Moss interrupted Leduc, Hodgkins’ attorney, to ask if granting the defense request to spare Hodgkins from prison could encourage others disgruntled by the results of a future election to besiege the Capitol. “If we allow people to storm the United States Capitol, what are we doing to preserve our democracy?” Moss asked.