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Federal law enforcement arrested an Illinois man on Tuesday for allegedly threatening to carry out violence at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week as authorities prepare for increased extremism from supporters of President Donald Trump.
Louis Capriotti was arrested near his home Tuesday morning and charged with transmitting a threat in interstate commerce, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The charge is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
The 45-year-old from Chicago Heights, Illinois, was expected to make an initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon.
“Our office takes the security of our public servants very seriously,” said U.S. Attorney John Lausch, who announced the complaint and arrest. “Individuals who cross the line of free speech by making unlawful threats will be held accountable.”
U.S. Capitol Police contacted the FBI in Chicago after reports, interviews and recordings from October 2019 through January 2020 indicated that Capriotti had consistently called the congressional offices of several lawmakers and left “disturbing, anonymous messages on the voicemail systems,” according to the criminal complaint.
Capriotti told FBI agents in February 2020 that it was his voice in the messages and that some of his voicemails could be seen as threatening ― but reportedly claimed he was “just fucking with” Congress and “didn’t mean any ill will.”
Federal authorities warned Capriotti that he could face charges if he continued the calls ― but that apparently didn’t stop him from leaving more voicemails from the same phone number. These consisted of a series of profane anonymous messages targeting several lawmakers between November and December, including two messages on Nov. 18, one on Dec. 4 and another on Dec. 29.
In the first Nov. 18 voicemail, Capriotti allegedly told a lawmaker from Michigan that he was “not from your state, but I am a nine-year Marine, active duty.” (FBI agents confirmed that Capriotti never served in the military.) Authorities say he also claimed to have killed several “terrorists” in previous wars and would “continue to kill them because that’s what I am trained to do.”
The voicemail noted that “in the next couple weeks, some big news is about to go down” and that certain people “are going to be astonished of what’s going to be revealed,” according to the complaint.
The other Nov. 18 voicemail targeted a second lawmaker from Michigan, describing the person as “gun grabbing” and a “terrorist,” and repeated the claim about killing terrorists in war. The message pointed to Jan. 20 ― Inauguration Day ― and said lawmakers were mistaken if they believed that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were “going to the White House” that day, according to the complaint.
In a Dec. 4 voicemail to a third lawmaker, from Pennsylvania, Capriotti allegedly described the person as a gun-grabbing terrorist and again claimed to be an active duty Marine. He threatened that the incoming president and vice president would not walk into the White House on Inauguration Day and told the lawmaker to “choke in hell,” according to the complaint.
An expletive-filled voicemail ― which is quoted uncensored below ― to a fourth lawmaker from New Jersey on Dec. 29 included derogatory remarks about the race, religion, political affiliation and physical appearance of certain people.
According to the complaint, Capriotti said that if certain people “think that Joe Biden is going to put his hand on the Bible and walk into that fucking White House on Jan. 20, they’re sadly fucking mistaken.” He then allegedly stated that “[we] will surround the motherfucking White House and we will kill any motherfucking Democrat that steps on the motherfucking lawn.”
In that same voicemail, authorities say, he labeled Democrats “fucking terrorists” and identified a former New Jersey governor, stating that he would “like to put one right in [their] fucking dome.”
Capriotti’s arrest comes as the FBI and Justice Department crack down on rioters involved in the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which left several people dead ― including a police officer. Lawmakers were in the middle of certifying Biden’s win when Trump incited his supporters to march on the Capitol and stop the vote count by any means.
Police were unprepared and overrun by Trump supporters who used weapons to assault officers, break into the Capitol and hunt for lawmakers they believed were responsible for Trump’s electoral loss. Lawmakers evacuated the premises before returning to finish certifying Biden’s win.
After days without a press conference, federal officials announced Tuesday that hundreds of cases would be brought against insurrectionists who were part of the mob. Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said authorities have already opened more than 170 subject file cases and that the number of charges was going to “geometrically increase.”
It’s unclear whether Capriotti was at the riot last week. But the insurrection has raised security concerns about Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, especially after some police were found to be complicit in the riot.
Capitol Police briefed Democrats on Monday night about three potentially violent demonstrations planned in the coming days, with one plot to surround the Capitol and assassinate Democrats and some Republicans. Police have established fencing and razor wire, and the National Guard has been called in to help protect the area and lawmakers. Out of safety, HuffPost is not disclosing certain information, such as who appears to be organizing the plots and when they are expected to take place.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.