Capitol Riot

‘Militia enthusiast' gets over 4 years in prison for attacking police with baton during Jan. 6 riot

A prosecutor said Matthew Thomas Krol was one of the worst instigators of violence that ultimately forced officers to retreat from the mob of rioters who stormed the Capitol’s West Plaza

FILE - Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C on Jan. 6, 2021.
Roberto SchmidtAFP via Getty Images (File)

A Michigan man described by prosecutors as a self-professed militia leader was sentenced on Friday to more than four years in prison for attacking law enforcement officers with a stolen police baton during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Matthew Thomas Krol, 65, of Linden, Michigan, assaulted at least three officers, injuring one of them, with the baton that he took from police. A prosecutor said Krol was one of the worst instigators of violence that ultimately forced officers to retreat from the mob of rioters who stormed the Capitol’s West Plaza.

Videos captured Krol’s attacks on officers, including Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell. Krol swung the stolen police baton at Gonell and struck his outstretched right hand, leaving it bloody and swollen.

Krol apologized to Gonell, who was in the courtroom, before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras sentenced him to four years and three months in prison. He'll get credit for the time he has spent in jail since his February 2022 arrest.

“I don't expect you to accept my apology, but I hope one day you do,” Krol told the former officer, who left the department a year ago.

Gonell urged the judge to hold Krol “accountable” for his actions on Jan. 6.

“The course of my life was changed that day, and he was part of the mob that ensured I'd lose my career,” Gonell said.

On Jan. 6, 2021, supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol during the certification of Electoral College votes. NBCLX Political Editor Noah Pransky brings you a timeline of the day and the aftermath.

Krol is a self-proclaimed executive officer of the Genesee County Volunteer Militia in Michigan, according to prosecutors. They say he told FBI agents that he is a “militia enthusiast."

Krol also associated with three members of the Wolverine Watchmen paramilitary group — Adam Fox, Joseph Morrison and Paul Bellar — who were convicted last year of supporting a 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, prosecutors said.

Krol isn't accused of any involvement in the plot, but the FBI found Facebook messages that he privately exchanged with militia group leaders in Michigan. One of them was Fox, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison after a federal jury convicted him and another man of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer.

During a June 2020 online chat with Fox and another user, Krol said he was “willing to kill or die for Liberty.”

“I spoke on the Michigan Capitol steps last fall that I would rather apprehend Tyrants at the Capital, hang them on those beautiful oak tress (than) kill citizens in a civil war,” he wrote.

Defense attorney Michael Cronkright said Krol merely made “several hyperbolic and inflammatory statements that he now regrets.” He wasn't a close associate of the Wolverine Watchmen and knew nothing about a kidnapping plot, the lawyer said.

“The government uses the phrase that Mr. Krol was ‘an associate of members’ to allude to a greater connection than exists,” Cronkright wrote.

After his arrest on Capitol riot charges, Krol told FBI agents that his communications with Fox involved a “hypothetical.”

But prosecutors say Krol “expressed his willingness to engage in mob violence to achieve his political objectives” before he joined the mob's Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“In Facebook messages, Krol evoked the use of violence against politicians and open hostility toward (Whitmer), in addition to sharing pictures of himself carrying weaponry,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Tessman wrote in a court filing.

Krol pleaded guilty to an assault charge in August. Prosecutors recommended sentencing him to a prison term of six years and six months.

Nine months after the riot, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers interviewed Krol as he returned from Mexico. Krol accused them of stopping him at the border only because he was a supporter of former President Donald Trump, and he referred to the Jan. 6 riot as a peaceful protest.

“During the same interview, Krol proclaimed that he was more patriotic than any of the officers who were questioning him,” Tessman wrote.

Cronkright said Krol has dedicated decades of his life to missionary and disaster relief work, including in Haiti, India, Thailand and Guatemala. Krol's attacks on police at the Capitol lasted less than a minute, the lawyer said.

"That minute, or even that hour, doesn’t define Matthew Krol even if it demonstrates his worst behavior on January 6, 2021. Mr. Krol will offer no excuse for that behavior," Cronkright wrote.

More than 1,200 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Approximately 900 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a judge or jury after trials. Over 700 have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds of them receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from three days to 22 years.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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