CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago Heights man has been arrested on federal charges accusing him of threatening violence at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week in Washington, D.C.
Louis Capriotti, 45, was arrested Tuesday morning, charged with transmitting a threat in interstate commerce, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago.
As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, federal agents were at the front door of Capriotti’s Chicago Heights home before the sun came up on Tuesday.
A federal judge ordered Capriotti to remain in custody pending a detention hearing, scheduled for Friday morning, after federal prosecutors argued he was a danger to the community, because he is charged with a “crime of violence.” Capriotti’s defense attorney objected to that characterization, but the judge said federal law considers crimes of violence to include threatened use of physical force.
According to the charges, on Dec. 29, 2020, Capriotti, falselly claiming to be an active-duty Marine, left a voicemail message for a U.S. House member from New Jersey — identified only as “Member D” — claiming “we will surround the motherf***ing White House and we will kill any motherf***ing Democrat that steps on the motherf***ing lawn.”
The charges say Capriotti also called several members of Congress between October 2019 and January 2020, leaving “disturbing, anonymous messages on the voicemail systems.”
Court documents state the messages “in almost every instance, included profanity, along with derogatory remarks concerning the race, religion, political affiliation, or physical appearance of certain Members and others.”
Capriotti often screamed during the messages and “spoke of ‘rais[ing] mother f***ing hell’ and referred to certain Members as ‘terrorists’ or ‘gun grabbing.'”
FBI agents interviewed Capriotti in Orland Park in February 2020 about those messages, and he confirmed he had been leaving messages for members of Congress on several occasions between 2017 and 2020. He “also acknowledged that the voicemail messages he left in 2020 and years beforehand could be interpreted as hateful and threatening,” according to the charges.
“During this same interview, Capriotti later explained to the agents that he was ‘just f***ing with them [the Members of Congress] … and that he ‘didn’t mean any ill will,'” the charges state. He also admitted he’d never served in the military.
During the interview, FBI agents told Capriotti he needed to stop making threatening calls, and warned him he might face charges if he continued.
Even so, the charges state Capriotti continued making threatening calls to members of Congress for months.
In a voicemail message on Nov. 18, 2020, Capriotti claimed “he had ‘killed’ several ‘terrorists’ in prior wars and that he ‘will continue to kill them because that’s what I am trained to do.'” He also claimed “‘in the next couple weeks, some big news is about to go down’ and that certain individuals ‘are going to be astonished of what’s going to be revealed,'” the charges state.
In a separate message to a different member of Congress on the same day, the charges say Capriotti claimed the lawmaker “was mistaken if they believed that ‘Biden’ and ‘Kamala Harris’ were ‘going to walk into the White House” on inauguration day on Jan. 20.
In a message for yet another member of Congress on Dec. 4, 2020, Capriotti again falsely claimed to be an active-duty Marine, and said the lawmaker “was mistaken if they believed that ‘Joe Biden’ and ‘Kamala Harris’ were ‘going to walk into that f***ing White House'” on inauguration day. He also called the lawmaker a “terrorist” and ended the message by saying the lawmaker could “choke in hell.”
Finally, on Dec. 29, 2020, Capriotti called a fourth member of Congress, leaving a message saying “that if certain individuals ‘think that Joe Biden is going to put his hand on the Bible and walk into that f***ing White House on January 20th, they’re sadly f***ing mistaken.”
According to the charges, Capriotti also threatened an unidentified former governor of New Jersey in the same call. Court documents say Capriotti “identified the first and last name of a former governor (Individual A) from Member D’s state and stated that he would ‘like to put one right in [Individual A’s] f***ing dome.'”
“Our office takes the security of our public servants very seriously,” U.S. Attorney John Lausch said in a statement on the charges against Capriotti. “Individuals who cross the line of free speech by making unlawful threats will be held accountable.”
Capriotti is no stranger to Cook County courts. His criminal record goes back to 2004.
In 2016, he pleaded guilty to harassment. In 2014, facing a divorce, Capriotti pleaded guilty to violating a protection order.
The news of Capriotti’s arrest came as state capitols around the country are stepping up security ahead of Inauguration Day, which is Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Following the assault on the U.S. Capitol last week, safety measures have been increased in Washington, D.C. and at state capitol buildings in an effort to prevent threats like Capriotti’s ahead of Election Day.
So far, 70 people have been charged federally for crimes related to the storming of the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Cases are expected to rise in the coming weeks.
“Even if you’ve left D.C., agents from our local field offices will be knocking on your door if we find out you were part of the criminal activity at the Capitol,” said Steven D’Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge at the FBI Washington Field Office.
At least two men from the Chicago area – Bradley Rukstales of Inverness and David Fitzgerald of Roselle – are facing charges.
The FBI says all 50-plus field offices are working on identifying and arresting people who were at the Capitol.
CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar contributed to this report.
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