January 6 Defendant Dies By Suicide

Obituary says "the justice system killed his spirit."
Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
Brent Stirton/Getty Images

A 37 year old who was charged in the U.S. Capitol breach reportedly died by suicide on Friday, about a month before he was scheduled to be sentenced.

Matthew Perna was charged with trespassing on the Capitol, “obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting, disorderly and disruptive conduct on a restricted building or grounds and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building,” ABC27News reported.

The defendant trespassed and participated in chanting “USA,” according to Justice Department documents. Perna apparently did not commit any violence, though he did say he “tapped” on a window in the Capitol using a “metal pole” when he was “frustrated,” documents reveal.

An obituary for the deceased published online said Perna, who always had the support of his family, “died … of a broken heart,” adding that “the justice system killed his spirit.”

“Matthew Lawrence Perna died on February 25, 2022 of a broken heart,” the obituary said. “His community (which he loved), his country, and the justice system killed his spirit and his zest for life. Matt was an amazing man! In his 37 years, he experienced more than most people do their entire lives.”

Perna was facing up to 20 years in prison, though his sentence, which was set to be doled out on April 1, was expected to be far lighter.

“The most serious charge to which Perna had pleaded guilty was a federal obstruction charge that carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, though he likely would have received a far lighter sentence,” Law & Crime explained. “So far, three Jan. 6 defendants have pleaded guilty to this charge, and all have been sentenced to prison: Paul Hodgkins to 8 months, and Scott Fairlamb and Jacob Chansley, also known as the ‘QAnon Shaman,’ to 41 months each.”

“Perna was also charged with three misdemeanors, including disorderly conduct and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds,” the report added.

The obituary contends Perna’s actions were entirely peaceful on January 6, 2021, and that the Justice Department unfairly targeted him, Law & Crime highlighted. Here’s a portion of the obituary:

He attended the rally on January 6, 2021 to peacefully stand up for his beliefs. After learning that the FBI was looking for him, he immediately turned himself in. He entered the Capitol through a previously opened door (he did not break in as was reported), where he was ushered in by police. He didn’t break, touch or steal anything. He did not harm anyone, as he stayed within the velvet ropes taking pictures. For this act he has been persecuted by many members of his community, friends, relatives and people who had never met him. Many people were quietly supportive and Matt was truly grateful for them. The constant delays in hearings and postponements dragged out for over a year. Because of this, Matt’s heart broke and his spirit died and many people are responsible for the pain he endured. Matt did not have a hateful bone in his body. He embraced people of all races, income brackets and beliefs, never once berating anyone for having different views.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free hotline for individuals in crisis or distress or for those looking to help someone else. It is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.

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