Non-Violent January 6 Defendant Commits Suicide While Awaiting Sentencing

A non-violent protestor at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, has committed suicide while waiting for sentencing following a guilty plea on “parading without a permit.” Department of Justice prosecutors were demanding a sentence including a federal prison sentence.

47-year-old Mark Aungst was from Pennsylvania. He and co-defendant Tammy Bronsburg were convicted on misdemeanor charges of parading in a restricted location based on their pleading guilty to briefly entering the Capitol building on January 6.

Court documents and statements by prosecutors indicate that neither defendant was alleged to have engaged in any violence on January 6 or to have damaged any federal property. The government alleged that the defendants entered the building through a fire door and left approximately 30 seconds later. They then allegedly re-entered the building 20 minutes later and took photos and videos using their mobile phones.

Records also show that when the pair were asked to leave the building by Capitol Police, they complied. They then returned to the bus that brought them to Washington for their return trip to Pennsylvania.

Aungst was reportedly charged by the DOJ as a result of a massive effort made by federal law enforcement agencies to locate protestors. He was apparently arrested only after another demonstrator who took the bus trip was angry about being delayed in getting home and reported Aungst to the FBI.

He pleaded guilty to the parading charge on June 27 in exchange for a dismissal of all other charges. He was scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Washington on September 27. He could have received up to six months in federal prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Aungst was found dead on July 20. The local coroner ruled the death a suicide. He leaves behind his daughter, mother, and three siblings.

He is at least the second January 6 defendant to commit suicide after facing federal prosecution.

Matthew Perna was another non-violent January 6 defendant who committed suicide after pleading guilty earlier this year to obstruction of Congress and three misdemeanor trespassing-related charges. He took his own life after he learned that prosecutors intended to pursue additional charges against him even after his guilty plea.

Guy Reffitt decided to go to trial on his January 6 charge after he was turned into authorities by his son. He was convicted in federal court on several charges and prosecutors are now seeking to have his prison term enhanced under terrorism sentencing guidelines.

The great majority of January 6 prosecutions that have been resolved came to close through guilty pleas. Many defendants have elected to accept the punishment associated with lesser charges rather than risk trial on the most dangerous charges prosecutors elected to bring.