Speeches

Geri Perna's Prepared Remarks

Honoring the Life of Jan. 6 Defendant Matthew Perna

My name is Geri Perna, and I am Matthew Perna's aunt.  His obituary, which went viral, was written by me because I wanted to make sure at least one honest article was written about him after over a year of the media printing lies and spreading false information about him and the events that took place January 6th, 2021.

 Although Matthew Perna may have taken his last breath on February 25th, his death began in January 2021 after he was arrested, and a nightmare like no other began.  It affected everyone in our family, but we proudly stood by his side.  Matt walked through an opened door into this Capitol building, a monument that has been called the People's House.  Standing here in front of this building does not give me a sense of pride; instead, it is replaced with a feeling of shame.  He did not break through any barriers; he walked in while Capitol police officers stood to the side.  If he was not permitted inside the building, why didn't they stop him and the others like him and turn them away?  He chanted USA, USA as he recorded with his cell phone, making sure to stay within the velvet ropes.  He harmed no one.  He broke nothing.  He stole nothing.  He entered the Capitol almost 45 minutes after Congress had adjourned and evacuated.  Yet he was charged with obstruction of Congress, a felony that drastically escalated his situation's seriousness. 

 The January 6th protesters were hunted down like dogs and arrested.  This same urgency for justice had never existed before.  The violent protests in our cities in 2020 resulted in far more damage and injury, all in the name of social injustice, which went unpunished. 

 When Matt found out that his picture was on the FBI site, he wasted no time turning himself in.  He contacted the local FBI office first.  Matt was polite and respectful.  He told them exactly what happened and left nothing out.  They returned a week later and arrested him on misdemeanor charges.  In the meantime, we retained an attorney who assured Matt repeatedly, "don't worry, I've got this"! 

 The local newspaper spent every chance they had printing false articles about Matt, and social media was even more brutal.  When the justice department added the felony charge of obstruction to two hundred and seventy protesters, his attorney still insisted he did not need to worry.  But worry is all Matt did.  Matt himself had never had so much as a parking ticket in his life and was now being accused of a felony.  He lost his income.  He lost friendships.  He lost his standing in the community.  We stood by Matthew because we KNEW HIM.

When he eventually pleaded guilty after several attempts to have the felony charge dismissed, people asked; Why on earth would you plead guilty if you know that you did nothing wrong? The answer was easy. Matt had become a shell of his former self.  Worry, anxiety, and stress had worn him down.  He suffered from constant nightmares and had begun throwing up blood. He was no longer comfortable leaving his home.  One setback after another had taken its toll on him, and he just wanted it all to be over. His attorney encouraged him to plead guilty by telling him that he would not receive a fair trial by jury in this town and that he was not strong enough to stand trial. He was prepared to take his punishment and eventually build his life back.  But those responsible took that hope away when his sentencing hearing was delayed, and his attorney told him they were seeking to add additional infractions at the last minute. Matt's father wrote a heartfelt letter pleading to Justice John D. Bates, asking leniency. He told him Matt was his caregiver, as he suffers from a serious illness. But the letter had no impact whatsoever. 

 So, Matt took the only way out he knew. He hung himself in his garage.  The hatred that has been fueled by many members of our government, including Congress, our justice department, and even our president, has brought our country to the point of no return. My brother has received hateful letters in the mail and online, telling him that Matt deserved what he got. Social media continues to fuel this flame as well.

 Right now, our country is focused on Ukraine and Russia while our very own Americans are rotting away in jail for exercising their freedom of speech. Americans have died defending their right to free speech in this country, the land of the free and home of the brave. Well, that country no longer exists. I agreed to come to this press conference today because I do not want Matthew Perna's name forgotten. There are hundreds of other people just like him standing in his shoes. I do not know how much more they can take.  Still, I promise you that if something is not done to stop this evil torture that is being inflicted upon these people who have not even been convicted of a crime, more will make the choice that Matthew Perna has made.  This is not a Democrat or a Republican issue; it is an issue about humanity.

 Most of our congressmen and women have remained silent.  It is harmful to their careers to speak out about the treatment of the January 6th protesters. God forbid they should lose any votes. Meanwhile, my brother lost his son.  Most refuse to publicly address this complete overreach of power and manipulation of our nation's laws.  Their silence speaks volumes.  Shame on everyone who has a voice and could have intervened; maybe this tragedy would never have occurred.  Our family made dozens of phone calls to our representatives in many states, only to leave messages or be told that they would note our concerns. We are disappointed and angry, and we are seeking justice for Matthew Perna.  I stand here today only because my nephew is dead.  No one cared about Matthew Perna's suffering at the hands of our Justice department when he was alive, and now it is too late to help him. But anyone who knew Matt would say that he would want others to receive the help he was denied.

We know Matt is in Heaven right now. He is finally free. The people responsible for this tragedy will stand before God someday and answer for the part they played.  But there is an evil surrounding these same people, and I do not think they are hoping to enter the gates of Heaven anyway.