A convicted Capitol rioter from Pennsylvania died by suicide on Feb. 25 while awaiting his sentencing, according to local news reports.
Matthew Lawrence Perna was arrested just days after the Jan. 6, 2021, riots on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., according to the Department of Justice.
Perna Pleaded Guilty in December, Sentencing was Scheduled for April
Perna was indicted in February 2021 and pleaded guilty to all charges on 17 December. He was awaiting his sentence in April.
The 37-year-old man from Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, was charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, aiding and abetting, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building.
He Faced Two Decades in Prison
Perna was one of the 786 people who have been charged with crimes related to the U.S. Capitol riots, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the federal building in a bid to stop members of congress members of Congress from affirming their vote in favor of then-President-elect Joe Biden. He faced up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
'Justice System Killed His Spirit'
A WKBN news report quoted an investigator as saying that Perna died by suicide. His family said in an obituary published on the news portalthat he died of a "broken heart," without revealing any more details about the circumstances surrounding his death.
"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," they wrote.
His family added that he was "peaceful" during the 6 January events. They wrote: "He attended the rally on 6 January 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," they added.
The obituary added that he was "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 family said. "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."