Man Held in California for Threats Against Pelosi

Posted April 9, 2010 at 10:42am

A man was arraigned Thursday in a federal court in San Francisco and is being held without bail for making harassing and threatening calls to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over health care reform, according to court records.

Gregory Lee Giusti, 48, is charged with one count of making obscene or harassing telephone calls, a felony punishable by a maximum of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The complaint, filed in the Northern District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that in February and March, Giusti made at least 48 phone calls to Pelosi’s homes in California and Washington, D.C., as well as to her district office and her husband’s office in San Francisco.

Pelosi told agents that she fielded one of the calls herself and Giusti “used extremely vulgar and crude language and threatened her, saying, ‘When you go back to California you won’t have a home to go back to,'” according to court records.

In a recorded message left at Pelosi’s D.C. home, Giusti allegedly said: “If you like your home in [Northern California], don’t vote for the health care bill.”

The arrest was a result of cooperation between the FBI and Capitol Police. Court records show that the FBI traced the calls to a “Magic Jack” phone number registered to a friend of Giusti’s, who identified the suspect as the caller and said he had been expelled from a local church for making similar threatening calls to other church members.

In 1991, Giusti was convicted of a similar offense, according to the records. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday that Giusti also had numerous theft convictions in the 1980s and was convicted in 2004 of threatening to kill a conductor after being kicked off a train.

U.S. Attorney Cynthia Frey said in court Thursday that Giusti told officers in a post-arrest interview that he may have a bipolar condition, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Giusti was taken into custody Wednesday at about noon Pacific time in San Francisco, Patti Hansen, spokeswoman for the bureau’s office there, said Wednesday.

FBI agents interviewed Giusti, who at first denied that he had made the calls. But when they played the recorded call for him, he eventually confessed, saying, “OK, I’ve heard enough,” according to sworn testimony by FBI agent Bryan Smith.

Giusti told agents, “I did not like her pushing the health care bill down the people’s throat,” Smith said in the affidavit.

The suspect’s mother told a San Francisco ABC affiliate that “her son has been stirred up by conservative pundits.”

“I say Fox News or all of those that are really radical and he, that’s where he comes from,” Eleanor Giusti said, according to KGO-TV.

Giusti’s court-appointed lawyer said in court that he wants his client to undergo a mental-health evaluation prior to detention, the station reported.

U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello said in a release: “When someone crosses the line from engaging in legitimate protest to making threats to do harm, the government will act to stop those threats from being carried out and to bring those responsible for making them to justice. According to the charges in the complaint, Mr. Giusti’s communications warranted our taking such action.”

Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, said Wednesday: “The Speaker thanks the FBI, the Capitol Hill Police, House Sergeant-at-Arms and other law enforcement officials for their professionalism in this matter. She will have no further comment at this time.”