Pennsylvania Capitol rioter Matthew Perna, who in December pleaded guilty to a charge of obstruction of Congress, died on February 25th of what his obituary described as a “broken heart” after “the justice system killed his spirit and his zest for life” in what comes across as a pretty obvious euphemism for suicide. Perna had faced up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at his sentencing on Thursday for entering the Capitol’s Senate lobby area during the insurrection and remaining there for about 20 minutes before leaving. What’s unclear is why Perna did not attempt to plead down the felony to local misdemeanors given that dozens of similarly dispositioned January 6th defendants who were not charged with any crimes such as assault, vandalism, larceny, or possession of weapons during the sacking – and if he really actually faced 20 years in the tombs as many of those other defendants got terms lasting weeks or months – if they got any time at all.
“[Perna] 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,” the obituary says, long on martyrdom but short on explaining why he didn’t hire a counsel competent enough to work out a deal before he pleaded guilty.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the U.S. is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255. Please call them if you find yourself needing to talk to someone.