A San Francisco man accused of making more than 30 threatening phone calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pleaded guilty in federal court today to a criminal threat charge.
Gregory Giusti, 49, entered a guilty plea to one count of intending to impede and intimidate a U.S. official by threatening the official's immediate family. The threat occurred during a March 25 phone call.
Giusti admitted during the plea before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White that he had threatened Pelosi, D-San Francisco, during the call, saying that if she voted for certain legislation, she wouldn't have “a home to come home to” in California.
Earlier court documents indicate Giusti was referring to the health care reform bill.
Giusti also admitted during the plea to making more than 30 interstate threatening calls in February and March from his San Francisco apartment to Pelosi's Washington, D.C., office and home.
Giusti, who is being held without bail, will be sentenced by White on Dec. 2. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors and defense attorneys are recommending a sentence of one year and nine months in prison.
But White has the power to reject the sentence, in which case Giusti would have the right to withdraw the plea. The charge carries a possible maximum sentence of six years in prison.
Giusti's attorney, Elizabeth Falk, said at the start of the hearing that he has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism.
She said the disorder doesn't affect Giusti's intelligence or “ability to understand what's happening,” but does affect his ability to sympathize with others.
“I do believe he meets the definition of competency. He is aware of what's going on today,” Falk told White.
The judge questioned Giusti extensively during the hearing about whether he understood the plea and the rights he was giving up.
Giusti, dressed in Alameda County Jail clothing, answered most questions with a clear “I do,” or “Yes, sir,” but choked up and wept quietly several times.
White said he concluded that Giusti was competent to enter the plea.
“The court finds that the defendant has knowingly entered a guilty plea. The defendant appeared alert and responsive to the court's questions, although he was somewhat labile – meaning that you were teary-eyed, Mr. Giusti,” the judge said.
Joseph Cotchett, a lawyer representing Pelosi, said the Congresswoman supports the plea agreement and is not seeking financial restitution.
“We concur totally with the plea agreement,” Cotchett told White.
As part of the plea bargain, Giusti agreed that after he is released, he will not try to communicate with Pelosi, her family or her staff in any way and will not knowingly come within 100 yards of any of them or Pelosi's offices or homes.
The heavyset Giusti, who said he has been suffering dizzy spills, was seated in a chair during the sentencing. White agreed to his request to ask the U.S. Marshals Service to make sure he can see a doctor about the spells.
The revised charge of threatening a federal official's immediate family was filed on Wednesday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Lowder told White prosecutors would have been prepared to prove at a trial that by threatening to destroy Pelosi's San Francisco home, Giusti was threatening to harm any family members inside the home.
The revised charge will replace an August indictment in which Giusti was accused of one count of making threatening interstate phone calls and one count of cyberstalking.
The federal case concerned the dozens of interstate phone calls. In an affidavit filed in the case in April, Giusti was alleged to have made an additional 18 calls within California to Pelosi's San Francisco office, her husband's office and one of their homes.
Giusti is alleged to have used a voice-over Internet Protocol device known as a “Magic Jack” to make the calls over the Internet.
He was sued by a San Francisco church last year for making harassing phone calls. He has previous criminal convictions in San Mateo County for threatening a Caltrain conductor and committing vandalism against BART and in San Francisco for perjury in a welfare fraud case and petty theft.
Giusti's mother, retired nurse Eleanor Giusti, and sister attended the hearing and made no comments after the session.
At a detention hearing in April, Eleanor Giusti told a magistrate that her son is “very vocal,” but said he has never hurt anyone and “has a very kind heart.”