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Man cries in Pelosi threat hearing

Photo by Eric Risberg

Photo by Eric Risberg

SAN FRANCISCO -- A man accused of threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in phone calls cried Thursday during a court appearance where a magistrate initially refused his request to be released to a halfway house.

Gregory Lee Giusti, 48, of San Francisco looked disheveled in a gray T-shirt and khakis as he appeared for the first time before Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman.

''Some of these threats are very serious,'' Zimmerman said before denying Giusti's request to be released to the halfway house. He said Giusti may suffer from bipolar disorder and should be receiving treatment.

The magistrate, however, told the U.S. attorney's office to interview Giusti further to determine if he was mentally competent enough to be released to a halfway house or if he should continue to be detained.

A detention hearing was scheduled for Monday.

Giusti is charged with making obscene, threatening or harassing phone calls to a member of Congress.

No plea was entered Thursday, and Giusti did not speak, except to say and spell his name when asked. He is being held without bail.

Giusti is accused of making the calls to Pelosi because of anger over health care reform. He was arrested Wednesday at a single-room occupancy public housing complex in San Francisco where he lived for the past nine years.

Giusti sat in a jury box Thursday speaking with a federal public defender before the hearing. The magistrate appointed counsel for Giusti after determining he could not afford to hire a lawyer.

If convicted, Giusti could receive a two-year prison sentence, $250,000 fine and one year of supervised release.

During an interview in New York, Pelosi said she doesn't know more than she did when she found out Wednesday about the arrest. She declined further comment on the case, citing the ongoing investigation.

Federal officials have said Giusti made dozens of calls to Pelosi's homes and to her husband's business office. The officials said Giusti recited Pelosi's home address and said if she wanted to see it again, she should not support the health care overhaul bill that since has been enacted.

Giusti has had legal troubles in the past because of threatening behavior.

In 2004 he was sentenced to a year in jail for a felony violation of threatening to kill a conductor on a commuter train, authorities said.

Last year, Hamilton Square Baptist Church in San Francisco sued Giusti, asking a court to order him to cease a campaign of harassment against people associated with the church, court documents show.

During Thursday's hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Frey said Giusti had other convictions for theft and telephone harassment.