SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP / BCN) — A San Francisco man upset about health care reform will spend 21 months in prison for threatening U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s family.
A federal court judge in San Francisco sentenced 49-year-old Gregory Lee Giusti on Thursday as the result of a plea agreement Giusti reached with prosecutors in September when he admitted to making more than 30 abusive and harassing phone calls to Pelosi’s homes and offices.
He pleaded guilty to a reduced count of threatening an elected U.S. official’s family.
Giusti admitted during the plea before U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White that he said in one of the many calls to Pelosi, D-San Francisco, that if she voted for health care reform legislation, “When you go back to California, you won’t have a home to come home to.”
Giusti will also serve a 3-year term of supervised release and was ordered to stay away from Pelosi and her family upon leaving prison.
“Obviously this defendant has some issues that caused him to act this way,” White said during Thursday’s hearing.
Giusti’s attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Elizabeth Falk, has said he has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism.
The judge asked Falk if the public should “be concerned (once he is released), that he won’t again pick up the phone or get on a computer” and cause trouble.
Falk said she believes Giusti, who has spent more than seven months already in the Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County since his arrest in April, is very repentant for harassing Pelosi.
“He’s really had a lot of time in custody to think about his actions,” Falk said. “I believe it’s made a significant impact” on him, she said, calling it “a real wakeup call.”
When asked by White if he had anything to say, Giusti, dressed in a yellow Alameda County jumpsuit, simply said, “I am sorry.”
He also asked toward the end of the hearing if he could hug his mother, retired nurse Eleanor Giusti, before leaving the courtroom.
White said that could be set up at the jail, but not in the courtroom.
While the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case, Pelosi’s attorney, Joseph Cotchett, also appeared in the courtroom for Thursday’s hearing to tell the judge that his client approved of the sentence.
Cotchett said outside the courtroom following the hearing that Pelosi “is very satisfied that justice was done” in the case.
“We hope in the future Mr. Giusti realizes that this is not how you conduct yourself in society,” he said.
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