A man accused of making more than 30 threatening phone calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this year was sentenced in federal court today to 21 months in prison.
Gregory Giusti, 49, of San Francisco, pleaded guilty in September to one count of intending to impede or intimidate a member of Congress by threatening Pelosi's immediate family during a March 25 phone call.
Giusti had admitted during the plea before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White that he said in that call to Pelosi, D-San Francisco, that if she voted for certain legislation, "When you go back to California, you won't have a home to come home to."
The legislation was identified in earlier court documents as the health care reform bill. Giusti also admitted during the plea to making about 30 interstate calls in February and March from his apartment to Pelosi's Washington, D.C., residence.
White sentenced him today to a year and nine months in prison, as well as three years of supervised release. The sentence was agreed upon by prosecutors and defense attorneys as part of the plea agreement in September.
"Obviously this defendant has some issues that caused him to act this way," White said during today'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 in 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 today's hearing to tell the judge 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.