SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The man charged with threatening to burn down House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home remains in custody without bail after a federal judge on Monday refused to release him into the supervision of his mother. The judge said he had concerns that Gregory Lee Giusti would “do what he threatened to do.”
Giusti, 48, was charged last week with one count of making threatening and harassing phone calls, which carries a penalty of up to two years in prison. Giusti confessed to making at least 48 calls to Pelosi’s homes in Washington, D.C., and the Bay Area, as well as her San Francisco office, leaving voicemail messages that said, “When you go back to California, you won’t have a home to go back to” if the federal healthcare reform bill passed.
Giusti’s mother, Eleanor Giusti, appeared in court to testify on her son’s behalf. “He has never been violent,” she said. “He takes in all the negative of what people say on the various media and just takes it all. But he’s not a physical person. It’s always verbal.” Eleanor Giusti went on to describe her son’s “very kind heart,” and how he took in a homeless man and let him stay in his room.
Giusti’s public defender, Elizabeth Falk, said in court that Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Frey has “not shown through clear and convincing evidence that he is threat to the community.” Falk said she was sure that under supervision, Giusti would not be a danger. “He has a problem with saying things he shouldn’t say, but he is not a physical person. What he is charged with is not the most serious of charges,” Falk said.
Frey said Giusti currently has 15 previous convictions, two of which are felonies. In 2005, Giusti was convicted of following a woman from a Caltrain station and threatening to kill her, for which he was sentenced to one year in jail and three years probation.
A bench warrant for his arrest also was issued in 2009 in Alameda County after Giusti failed to appear in court following a 2008 conviction for “using offensive words in a public place,” Frey said. Giusti is still on probation for that conviction.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman on Monday said he was not concerned about Giusti being a flight risk, and was inclined to “fashion a release order centered around his mother,” but ultimately decided Giusti was too much of a danger to others to be granted bail.
“He obviously has some kind of psychiatric problem, but what impresses me most is that his criminal [behavior] is chronic,” Zimmerman said. “This shows he does not respect authority, he cannot control his behavior and he is not amenable to supervision. The number of the threats is serious, and the fact that he made an effort to conceal the calls shows that this was planned. No conditions of release can assure the safety of the community and the congresswoman.”
Zimmerman apologized to Giusti’s mother, saying he was “not prepared to minimize it by saying he’s just a gentle soul prone to saying things.”
Zimmerman said he is “amenable to ordering a psychiatric evaluation” of Giusti, but was “not prepared to do that now.”
Giusti’s preliminary hearing and arraignment is set for April 19.