Capitol Rioter Dies by Suicide Weeks Before Sentencing

Family says Matt Perna's 'heart broke' because of constant delays in case
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2022 1:36 PM CST
Capitol Rioter Dies by Suicide Weeks Before Sentencing
Perna, circled, is seen in this image from video taken inside the Capitol.   (Department of Justice)

A 37-year-old man awaiting sentencing for his role in the Capitol riot has died by suicide—and his family blames "the constant delays in hearings." Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, resident Matt Perna was due to be sentenced April 1, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. In an obituary, his family said postponements had dragged the case out for more than a year. "Because of this, Matt’s heart broke and his spirit died, and many people are responsible for the pain he endured," they said, among them "his community (which he loved), his country, and the justice system." Perna was out on bail and the Mercer County Coroner's office confirmed Tuesday that he died by suicide at his residence on Friday.

According to the Department of Justice, Perna was arrested on Jan. 19, 2021 and pleaded guilty to all four counts against him—including a felony count obstruction of an official proceeding—as part of a plea agreement on Dec. 17 last year. Prosecutors said Perna spent around 20 minutes inside the Capitol building during the Jan. 6 riot and posted a video on Facebook later that day, NBC reports. "It's not over, trust me," he said. "The purpose of today was to expose Pence as a traitor." A person who knew Perna contacted the FBI after the agency shared his photo and asked for the public's help.

In Perna's obituary, his family said he went to Donald Trump's Jan. 6 rally to "peacefully stand up for his beliefs." "Matt’s family stood by him during this devastating ordeal, and are extremely proud of his passion for life and his pursuit of many dreams," they wrote. "His actions last year are not looked down upon, instead his family is grateful and humbled by his courage." They said Perna was "ushered in by police" and did not "break, touch, or steal" anything inside the building. A sentencing memo had not been filed in his case, but others who have pleaded guilty to the same felony obstruction count faced recommended sentences of more than two years, WUSA9 reports. (More Capitol riot stories.)

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