WASHINGTON — A federal judge sentenced a Texas man to 45 days in jail Monday for his role in the Capitol riot – going above the Justice Department’s request that he serve only home confinement.
In her sentencing decision Monday morning, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan said “there have to be consequences” for Capitol riot defendants like Matthew Mazzocco, who pleaded guilty in July to one misdemeanor charge for his role in the January 6 Capitol riot. In a sentencing memo, the DOJ asked for Mazzocco to serve three months of home confinement plus three years of probation. His attorney, Robbie Ward, argued he should serve probation only. Chutkan, however, didn’t agree with either.
“This court believes that a sentence of probation does not reflect the seriousness of the crime… if Mr. Mazzocco walks away with probation and a slap on the wrist, that’s not going to deter anyone from trying to do what he did,” Chutkan said. “Nor do I agree with the government that confining him to his home, where he can be with his family, is appropriate.”
Under the terms of his plea deal, Chutkan had leeway to sentence Mazzocco to any amount of time up to the six months maximum allowed for a Class “B” misdemeanor. While judges often give deference to sentencing requests from the government, they are free to depart upward or downward as they see fit. In Mazzocco’s case, Chutkan said she believed actual jail time was necessary.
“What happened that day was nothing short of a violent mob attempting to disrupt the peaceful transition of power,” Chutkan said. “That mob was trying to overthrow the government.”
“There have to be consequences,” she added.
Mazzocco was arrested on January 17 after the FBI received an anonymous tip about a selfie he’d posted outside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 with the caption “The capital is ours!” The Justice Department said he quickly expressed a desire to take responsibility in the case, and became one of the first 10 defendants to reach a plea deal.
Chutkan, however, said that only happened after he’d been caught.
“When he got home, he was proud of what he’d done!” she said. “It wasn’t until the consequences started to catch up to him that he tried to hie what he’d done.”
Although Mazzocco can be seen in images from January 6 wearing a body-worn camera, FBI agents were never able to locate the footage he shot. Mazzocco told investigators he didn’t know where it was.
Chutkan also pushed back on the idea that Capitol riot defendants like Mazzocco were being treated more harshly than protestors arrested for violence during police brutality protests last summer. Mazzocco, she pointed out, was allowed to plead guilty to a petty misdemeanor despite a premeditated decision to attack “the very heart of our democracy.” And, she pointed out, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’d never even had to appear in an actual courtroom.
In addition to 45 days in jail, Mazzocco will have to pay $500 in restitution for damage caused to the U.S. Capitol. Unlike other defendants, he will not have to serve a probationary period after his release.