WASHINGTON, D.C. - The wife of a U.S. Capitol riot suspect from South Jersey has asked a sentencing judge for mercy, saying the couple’s world was “turned on its head” by his arrest.
Marisa Panayiotou of Wrightstown also noted her own role in the prosecution of her husband, Marcos, who is to be sentenced Nov. 29.
“It was me who shared the video of Marcos walking around the Capitol Building and I admitted that to law enforcement,” she wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington, D.C.
“And it was my friends who contacted law enforcement to identify Marcos,” she added.
Panayiotou was arrested at the couple's home in December on charges arising from the Jan. 6, 2021, riot by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
The wife's letter is part of a defense sentencing memorandum that includes photos of the couple in front of a Christmas tree and posing with the defendant’s mother at their marriage.
It requests a three-year probationary term for Marcos Panayiotou, along with no more than 30 days of home confinement and 60 hours of community service.
But a federal prosecutor wants “significant jail time” for Panayiotou, a U.S. Marine veteran who now works in swimming pool maintenance.
Panayiotou should receive a 45-day term of incarceration, along with a three-year probationary term, says a memorandum from Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Fedor.
Panayiotou has agreed to pay restitution of $500 under a guilty plea to a federal misdemeanor offense.
The prosecution's memorandum asserts Panayiotou entered the Capitol around 10 minutes after its breach and spent some 40 minutes inside the building.
“As though there were not enough rioters plaguing the Capitol that day, at one point, Panayiotou climbed into a window frame to beckon his fellow rioters from the grounds to enter the Capitol,” it says.
The 36-page filing also contends Panayiotou “got rid of some distinctive clothing he wore (during the riot) and deleted items from his cellular telephone."
Authorities said the former Marine sergeant wore a sweatshirt with the logo of his former military unit, a maintenance battalion at Camp Pendleton in California.
He also sported a red hat that read, “Make Politicians Afraid Again,” according to the prosecution memorandum,
But the defense noted Panayiotou did not engage in violence or vandalism inside the Capitol and did not post "incendiary" social-media comments after the riot.
"Marcos Panayiotou did not intentionally make his way to the front of the crowd in an effort to breach any door, he just moved closer as the crowd became deeper behind him," Assistant Federal Public Defender Carol Dominguez says in her sentencing memo.
She says Panayiotou, while aware he could have left the scene, instead entered the Capitol with other rioters "in what he regrets as the biggest mistake of his life."
Fedor described as “highly dubious” several statements that Panayiotou made to investigators after his plea. These included claims that he did not see violence, see or hear flashbangs, and see or smell tear gas as he entered the Capitol.
But the defense memorandum asserts, "Mr. Panayiotou may have been in a position to see it, but he did not."
It also pushes back against a prosecution claim that Panayiotou had not expressed remorse during an interview with FBI agents after his plea hearing in August. Instead, Dominguez says, Panayiotou declined to address that topic at her direction so the public defender could address it in her memorandum.
"He is ashamed of himself and was, quite frankly, in the immediate aftermath of the day," Dominguez says. "He is embarrassed for himself, his wife, those family, friends, and U.S. Marines brothers who, he believes have lost faith in him."
And while the prosecution notes Panayiotou failed three tests for marijuana use in the months after his arrest, the defense asks that his sentence include treatment for substance abuse.
The prosecution also asserts Panayiotou’s Marine service from 2016-20 made his role in the riot “all the more troubling.”
“His voluntary decision to storm a guarded government building is nothing short of shocking in light of his former military service and training,” Fedor asserts.
The prosecutor also notes police found a partially loaded gun with a 17-round magazine next to Panayiotou’s bed when he was arrested in December 2021. That led to a conviction, unrelated to the riot, on a charge of disorderly conduct.
About 15 area residents have been charged in connection with the riot intended to block the election of President Joe Biden.
Panayiotou admitted guilt in August to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
He would be the third South Jersey resident to be sentenced for his role in the Capitol riot.
Two men — Lawrence Stackhouse, 34, of Gloucester Township and Robert Petrosh, 53, of Mays Landing — were ordered to spend time in custody under sentences handed down earlier this year.
Jim Walsh is a senior reporter for Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.
This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Marcos Panayiotou accused of urging 2021 rioters to enter U.S. Capitol