Skip to main content

‘I Choose Violence’: Michigan Man Who Quoted Game of Thrones After Jan. 6 Sentenced to Jail Time

Jeramiah Caplinger

Jeramiah Caplinger

A Michigan man who scaled a wall at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and breached the building — and days later, quoted a fictional TV character in expressing his support for the violence that day — will spend a little more than a month in jail.

Jeramiah Caplinger, who was 25 at the time of his charging, was pictured climbing a wall on the west side of the Capitol, joining in a crowd that had rushed a line of police inside the building, and wandering through the office suite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as staffers hid behind closed doors and under desks.

He pleaded guilty in November to one count of climbing on U.S. Capitol grounds, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine. He admitted to having scaled a wall in order to reach the Upper Terrace level of the Capitol building, entering the building minutes after the initial breach, and spending a little more than 30 minutes inside.

During that time, he joined a group of rioters in rushing police trying to hold off the crowd in the Crypt. He then walked through Pelosi’s suite of offices before returning to the Rotunda, where he stayed for about seven minutes before exiting the building.

On Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman sentenced Caplinger to 35 days behind bars. Caplinger must complete two years of probation, put in 60 hours of community service, and pay $500 in restitution.

During the hearing, prosecutors focused not only on Caplinger’s actions at the Capitol, but his statements before and after — statements that, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon, didn’t suggest anything other than pride in joining the scores of Donald Trump supporters that day in overwhelming police and causing Congress to temporarily stop certifying Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election.

Gordon went through multiple examples of Caplinger’s post-Jan. 6 braggadocio, including a February 2021 interview with the news website MLive, in which Caplinger compared himself to a “pissed off” bear that had been repeatedly poked with a stick and that “being told the election was stolen was one poke too many.”

Gordon honed in on what he said was a particularly disturbing passage from that interview, in which Caplinger was talking about the lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol that day who were forced to either evacuate or shelter in place as the mob streamed in.

“If you take a job, you take on the responsibility of that job and everything and anything that comes with it,” Caplinger told the outlet. “So, to members of Congress that sit there like AOC (and say) ‘I almost died.’ Then why don’t you quit and go do something else. If you feel that strong about it, leave.”

Gordon said that Caplinger’s idea of the role of lawmakers has no place in a democracy, and that Caplinger’s attitude — that the risk of dying from mob violence is just “part of the gig when you run for public office” — is dangerous.

“Politicians are not soldiers,” Gordon said, adding: “Risk of death isn’t in the job description.”

Caplinger stuck to that view later that year, posting on Twitter in July 2021 that House lawmakers hiding from rioters closing in on the House chamber were “worthless cowards.”

“This isn’t remorse,” Gordon said. “This is opportunism on the back of a riot that caused politicians to literally fear for their lives.

Prosecutors also said that Caplinger was prepared for violence when he went to the Capitol on Jan. 6. When his sister sent him a text asking “how’s rioting going[?]” Caplinger replied: “Greeaat … Glad I had body armor.” Two days later, Caplinger again signaled his approval, posting: “As said by Cersi [sic] Lannister ‘I choose violence.'”

In the sentencing memo, prosecutors provided context for Caplinger’s comment:

Cersei Lannister is a fictional character in the HBO television series “Game of Thrones.” After being confronted by a group of politically-empowered religious zealots, who warn her that that if she does not yield to them “there will be violence,” Cersei Lannister responds, “I choose violence.” Shortly thereafter, Cersei Lannister used a weapon of mass destruction to blow up one of the largest and most important buildings in the capital city, which at the time contained almost all of the city’s preeminent politicians and religious leaders. In stating, “I choose violence,” Cersei Lannister embraced—and then carried out—mass murder to achieve her political ends. In the context of Caplinger posting this just two days after January 6, Caplinger’s adoption of this quote is alarming and provides insight into his mental state and intent in storming the Capitol.

In court on Monday, Caplinger’s lawyer James Gerometta said that his client is “not in the same place he was” on Jan. 6, citing coronavirus-related measures as having contributed to a sense of isolation that led to his extremism. Gerometta said that Caplinger’s work in a factory in a Michigan suburb has forced him to get along with a diverse group of people, and he now knows that “people who disagree with him politically aren’t his enemy.” He also said, in a defense brief, that his client is “attempting to mount a campaign to become a state representative.”

Caplinger himself kept his remarks to the judge brief, focusing on his desire to not be separated from his family.

“I would like to first apologize to you and the court for my actions on Jan. 6,” Caplinger said to Friedman, a Bill Clinton appointee. “I am sorry for all that has occurred, then and afterwards. For me, the most important thing is not being taken away from my family. My daughter is very young. I don’t want to be an absent father. Please don’t separate me from my family. That would be all I have to say, your honor.”

[Images via FBI court filing.]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime: