After a defense lawyer asked for probation, and a federal prosecutor suggested three months of home confinement for a Jan. 6 rioter convicted of illegally demonstrating at the U.S. Capitol, a federal judge on Monday said no to both. If the defendant “walks away with probation and a slap on the wrist,” U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan said, “that’s not going to deter anyone from trying what he did again.”
So Chutkan sentenced Matthew C. Mazzocco to 45 days in jail, 60 hours of community service and $500 restitution for the damage done to the Capitol building. Of 11 defendants sentenced so far, Mazzocco is the first to receive a jail term when prosecutors had not asked for one.
Chutkan, a former public defender, said that deterrence weighed heavily on her mind.
“Because the country is watching,” she said, “to see what the consequences are for something that has not ever happened in this country before, for actions and crimes that undermine the rule of law and our democracy.”
The judge also rejected criticism that the U.S. District Court in Washington, where Jan. 6 rioters are being prosecuted, is treating the defendants differently than those who protested the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last year. Chutkan acknowledged that some of the Floyd protesters became violent.
“But to compare the actions of people protesting, mostly peacefully, for civil rights to those of a violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government is a false equivalency and ignores the very real danger that the Jan. 6 riots posed to the foundation of our democracy,” she said.
Mazzocco, 38, of San Antonio appeared remotely and did not have to surrender immediately. He posted photos of himself on Facebook in the Capitol on Jan. 6, which led other parents involved in his youth sports league to identify him to the FBI, court records state. He was arrested on Jan. 17 and fired from his job as a loan officer with Synergy One Lending, the company told San Antonio news outlets. He pleaded guilty in July.
“I am truly sorry for my actions that day,” Mazzocco told the judge. “It has truly taken a toll on me. I’m not just saying that because I want to get off. I know I made a big mistake. I want to apologize to the country, to you and to the police officers. … I’m just very sorry.”
Chutkan then began to lay out her thinking on sentencing and acknowledged that Mazzocco had pleaded guilty only to one misdemeanor count of “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building,” a common charge for many of the rioters. She noted that Mazzocco had only been in the Capitol for 12 minutes, that he did not inflict any damage and that he had urged other people not to cause any damage.
The judge said she received letters from Mazzocco’s friends and family saying he had wandered into the Capitol out of impulse and curiosity.
“That’s not what he did,” Chutkan said. “He learned about the protests, he bought an airplane ticket from Texas, he got on a plane with the intent of coming to Washington to interfere with the transition of power … and that’s what he did.”
Chutkan said the mere presence of the hundreds of people who entered the Capitol did nothing more than to help create the momentum for violence. “His presence was part of the mob,” the judge said. “The mob isn’t the mob without the number. People committed those violent acts because they had the safety of numbers.”
Chutkan also pointed out that after Mazzocco returned to Texas, he bragged about his actions, denied there was a riot and blamed the violence on antifa, a loosely knit group of far-left activists. Prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum that Mazzocco wore a body camera during the insurrection but that federal agents were unable to locate it. Mazzocco also deleted his social media posts soon after his return to Texas, the judge said.
“There have to be consequences for participating in an attempted violent overthrow of the government, beyond sitting at home,” Chutkan said in rejecting the government’s proposed three months of home confinement. Mazzocco is the 10th misdemeanant to be sentenced, along with one felon, and the fourth to be sentenced to jail time. Last week, another judge imposed three months of home confinement on rioter Andrew R. Bennett when the government had only sought two months.
Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.