CHICAGO - A federal judge has sentenced a Chicago Heights man to 37 months in prison for leveling a threat against President Joe Biden’s 2021 inauguration, a punishment designed in part to help "stop this tsunami of threats against our elected officials."
Prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman to sentence Louis Capriotti only to two-and-a-half years in prison. But Guzman said Capriotti’s history of violence and criminal convictions suggests he thought he would face no consequences.
"That stops here, and it stops now," Guzman said.
The FBI even warned Capriotti in early 2020 about earlier threats he had made. And Tuesday, a prosecutor revealed Capriotti told agents then, "it’s real simple guys. They f—ed with the president, so we f—ed with them back."
Guzman called Capriotti’s threats "vicious, laced with profanity, disgusting in every way." And he called Capriotti’s false claim of being a Marine "particularly despicable."
"He is nothing like a Marine," Guzman said.
Capriotti, dressed in an orange jumpsuit with his legs shackled in Guzman’s courtroom, declined to make a comment to the judge before being sentenced.
Capriotti left a voicemail for a member of Congress on Dec. 29, 2020, in which he said "we will surround the motherf—ing White House and we will kill any motherf—ing Democrat that steps on the motherf—ing lawn."
One week later, rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol and interrupted the Electoral College vote, igniting what’s been described as likely the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history. Hundreds now face criminal charges, including at least 27 Illinoisans. Capriotti was arrested on Jan. 12, 2021, six days after the Capitol breach.
Capriotti’s threats were not connected to the breach. He did not participate in it or travel to Washington, D.C. Still, federal prosecutors say, "the timing of Capriotti’s voice messages should not be ignored" and only made his crime worse.
Meanwhile, Capriotti’s attorney has pointed to the "very light sentences" given to many people convicted for their participation in the Capitol breach. Defense attorney Jack Corfman also argued in a recent court memo that "our current political rhetoric has led to widespread use of harsher, more inflammatory language."
Capriotti crossed the line, Corfman wrote. But he "did not do so in a vacuum, divorced from the political and news contexts around him." Rather, "he did so with the news on his television."
Capriotti pleaded guilty last October.
In a letter to the judge in March, Capriotti wrote, "I have learned my lesson. I do not want to spend any more of my life in jail. I understand that these calls crossed a line and I will not make any more to any politicians ever again."
Capriotti has spent more than a year in downtown Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. A magistrate judge ordered Capriotti held in federal custody Jan. 21, 2021 — the day after Biden’s inauguration — after a prosecutor played part of Capriotti’s voicemail rant in court.
The voicemail had been left for a member of Congress from New Jersey.
Capriotti could be heard in the recording saying that, if "motherf—ing p—y a– Republicans and these Democrat f—ing terrorists think that Joe Biden is going to put his hand on the Bible and walk into that f—ing White House on Jan. 20th, they’re sadly f—ing mistaken."
Capriotti also said, "Democrats are f—ing terrorists. They’re baby killers, gun grabbers, God-hating, cop-hating, open borders, fake climate change c—sucking cheaters."
He also lied about being a "nine-year Marine, active duty."
It wasn’t the first time Capriotti made threatening calls to members of Congress, prosecutors say. FBI agents interviewed him in Orland Park on Feb. 7, 2020, about earlier calls he allegedly made. Capriotti acknowledged then that his voicemails could be perceived as threatening and dangerous, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Durkin wrote in his own court memo that Capriotti has about 25 previous convictions. Though many are for traffic offenses, they also include convictions for domestic battery and assault, according to the prosecutor. That record meant that "Capriotti is capable of following through on his anger and threats," Durkin wrote.
But Corfman argued Capriotti "had no intent, and no plan or ability" to follow through on his threats. No weapons were found in his home.
"The reality is that Mr. Capriotti has no affiliation with any groups or other individuals, and the genesis of his actions are much simpler: when he would hear things he didn’t like on the news, he would become upset and lash out," Corfman wrote.