Chicago Heights man who left threatening voicemails ‘did not do so in a vacuum,’ lawyers argue

Louis Capriotti, who left threatening voicemails for a member of Congress from his Chicago Heights home, is seeking an 18-month sentence.

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Dirksen Federal Courthouse window

Dirksen Federal Courthouse

Sun-Times file

Lawyers for a Chicago Heights man who admitted leaving voicemails for a member of Congress in which the man threatened President Joe Biden’s inauguration are arguing his actions were influenced by increasingly charged political rhetoric, and he shouldn’t be lumped in with those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Louis Capriotti, 46, left a voicemail for a member of Congress in late 2020 saying, “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.”

“We will surround the motherf---ing White House, and we will kill any motherf---ing Democrat that steps on the motherf---ing lawn,” he said.

In a March 25 sentencing memo, his lawyers asked for a sentence of 18 months, followed by 36 months of supervised release. The guidelines for his charges range from 30 to 37 months.

“He had no intent, and no plan or ability, to follow through on his voicemails,” his lawyers wrote in a sentencing memo submitted in federal court Friday.

Capriotti was arrested six days after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, although he didn’t go to Washington, D.C., and his voicemails weren’t connected to the groups involved, his lawyers said.

“Mr. Capriotti’s conduct is in stark contrast to these circumstances that preceded (and likely precipitated) his arrest,” the sentencing memo says.

His lawyers pointed to examples of other intense political rhetoric — including comedian Kathy Griffin’s mock beheading of former President Donald Trump — to show a pattern of increasingly “harsher, more inflammatory language” being used in the political arena.

“This is no excuse for Mr. Capriotti’s conduct, which he has acknowledged crossed the line,” his lawyers said in the memo. “Yet he did not do so in a vacuum, divorced from the political and news contexts around him; he did so with the news on his television.”

The memo includes sentences for Jan. 6th arrestees, with his lawyers arguing that Capriotti’s threatening phone calls don’t carry the same weight as actually entering the Capitol and making similar threats.

“Mr. Capriotti is much less culpable than those defendants who committed other crimes, such as threats, violence, or incitation, and actually traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate,” his lawyers said. “The physical invasion of the U.S. Capitol is more aggravating, and more threatening, than Mr. Capriotti’s phone calls from his house in Chicago.”

In a letter from Capriotti attached to the memo, he said, “I have learned my lesson,” and “do not want to spend any more of my life in jail.” He’s been detained at Chicago MCC the last 14 months.

Although he worked intermittently, including as a car salesman and for his uncle’s asphalt company, Capriotti has been unemployed the last five years, his lawyers said.

In the sentencing memo, Capriotti voluntarily proposes an additional condition of supervised release: that he attend a program for anger management counseling.

“He understands that his emotions have gotten him in trouble in the past and that he has spent the last year in jail in part for that reason, and has no interest in repeating his mistakes and going back to the MCC once he is released.”

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