‘Militia enthusiast’ gets more than four years in prison for attacking police with a baton during riots on January 6

(Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press)

‘Militia enthusiast’ gets more than four years in prison for attacking police with a baton during riots on January 6


Dec. 15, 2023

A Michigan man described by prosecutors as a self-styled militia leader was sentenced 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, attacked at least three officers, injuring one of them, with the baton he had taken from the police department. Prosecutors say Krol was one of the worst instigators of violence, which ultimately forced officers to withdraw from the mob of rioters who stormed the Capitol’s West Plaza.

Video captured Krol’s attacks on officers, including Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell. Krol brandished the stolen police baton at Gonell, striking his outstretched right hand, leaving it bloody and swollen.

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

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

Gonell urged the judge to hold Krol accountable for his actions on January 6.

The course of my life changed that day, and he was part of the gang that caused me to lose my career, Gonell said.

Prosecutors say Krol is a self-proclaimed executive officer of the Genesee County Volunteer Militia in Michigan. They say he told FBI agents he was a militia enthusiast.

Krol also had ties to three members of the Wolverine Watchmen paramilitary group, Adam Fox, Joseph Morrison and Paul Bellar, who were convicted last year of backing a 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor. Gretchen Whitmer, prosecutors said.

Krol is not accused of any involvement in the plot, but the FBI has found Facebook messages he exchanged privately with leaders of militia groups 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 Freedom.

I spoke on the steps of the Michigan Capitol last fall that I would rather arrest tyrants in the capital and hang them from that beautiful oak tree. [trees than] kill civilians in a civil war, he wrote.

Attorney Michael Cronkright said Krol made only a few hyperbolic and inflammatory statements that he now regrets. He was not a close associate of the Wolverine Watchmen and knew nothing of a kidnapping plan, the lawyer said.

The government is using the phrase that Mr. Krol was an associate of the members to hint at a larger connection than exists, Cronkright wrote.

After his arrest on Capitol riot charges, Krol told FBI agents that his communications with Fox were hypothetical.

But prosecutors say Krol expressed his willingness to engage in mob violence to achieve his political goals before joining the mob’s Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

In Facebook posts, Krol called for the use of violence against politicians and open hostility toward politicians [Whitmer], in addition to sharing photos of himself with weapons, Assistant US Atty. Andrew Tessman wrote in a lawsuit.

Krol pleaded guilty to assault in August. Prosecutors recommended that he be given a prison sentence of six years and six months.

Nine months after the riot, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents 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 Trump and called the Jan. 6 riot a peaceful protest.

During the same interview, Krol stated that he was more patriotic than all the officers who questioned him, Tessman wrote.

Cronkright said Krol has dedicated decades of his life to mission and disaster relief work, including in Haiti, India, Thailand and Guatemala.

Krol’s attacks on Capitol police lasted less than a minute, the lawyer said.

That minute, or even that hour, does not define Matthew Krol, even though he exhibited his worst behavior on January 6, 2021. Mr. Krol will not apologize for that behavior, Cronkright wrote.

More than 1,200 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot.

About 900 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a judge or jury after a trial. More than 700 people have been convicted, roughly two-thirds of whom receive prison sentences ranging from three days to 22 years.


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