A participant in the insurrection at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, died. Matthew Lawrence Perna of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, was 37 years old and awaiting sentencing in his case. His family says he died of a broken heart and spirit because of the persecution he felt from his community and constant delays in court hearings.
His family states he went to the Capitol that day to peacefully stand up for the country. They further assert Perna entered the building through an open door rather than breaking in as reported. “He didn’t break, touch, or steal anything,” according to his obituary. Moreover, he took photos from within the velvet ropes and did not hurt anyone.
These statements were made even though he entered the Capitol’s exterior plaza that was closed to the public. The rioters forced their way into the building, causing then-Vice President Mike Pence, members of the House of Representatives, and U.S. Senators were forces to suspend the 2020 election certification and evacuate for their safety, according to the FBI statement of facts dated Jan. 18, 2021, in the case against Perna.
In the agency’s evidence, photos pulled from a video posted on dailymotion.com Perna is visible among the crowd of insurrectionists. His family indicated, in the obituary, that he turned himself in once he learned the FBI was looking for him.
He admitted to his illegal presence inside the Capitol’s rotunda but claimed he did not intend to enter the building — he was pushed in by the crowd, reports NBC News. FBI photos reflect a willing participant wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” holding a mobile phone filming the crowd around him and chanting “U.S.A.”
Despite being in the center of the packed rotunda, the 37-year-old told investigators he was in and out within 5-10 minutes. Later in the interview, Perna admitted that at one point he became frustrated, and using a metal pole, tapped on a window of the Capitol building,” included the FBI statement of facts.
The federal charges against him included: “obstruction of an official proceeding and 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,” reports Insider.
Perna pleaded guilty to lesser charges of witness tampering, disorderly conduct, and two counts of entering a restricted building or grounds, according to Insider. He was expected to appear in the U.S. District in Washington D.C. for sentencing on April 1.
His cause of death has not been released. The funeral is scheduled for March 2 in Hermitage. Pastors Nathan Pearson, Dan Dennis, and Donald Campbell will lead the services in John Flynn Funeral Home and Crematory’s chapel.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Insider: Family of Capitol rioter said he died of a ‘broken heart’ and blamed the justice system for killing his ‘zest for life;’ by Rebecca Cohen
The Herald: Matthew Lawrence Perna Obituary
WFMJ NBC 21: Sharpsville man convicted of Capitol riot involvement dead at age 37; by Mike Gauntner
United States Department of Justice: Perna, Matthew
Images Courtesy of Brett Davis’ Flickr Page Creative Commons License