The FBI arrested a San Francisco man early this afternoon on suspicion of making threatening phone calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“After an investigation into threats made against Speaker Pelosi, an arrest has been made in San Francisco,” said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, D-San Francisco.
FBI spokeswoman Patti Hansen said Gregory Giusti, 48, was taken into custody at about 12:15 p.m.
Hansen declined to say what Giusti is accused of and said his case is sealed until he makes an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Bernard Zimmerman at the Federal Building in San Francisco on Thursday.
But Hansen said, “The FBI takes threats against elected officials very seriously.”
Giusti was the target of a lawsuit filed in September 2009 by the Hamilton Square Baptist Church on San Francisco’s Geary Boulevard that alleged a “campaign of harassment” against the church.
Attorney John Jones, who is representing the church in the suit, said Giusti was a member of the church from 1999 to 2005.
“His relationship with the church members deteriorated within that period of time,” Jones said. “The situation became so tense that Mr. Giusti was asked to find another church home.”
Jones said Giusti was upset about being kicked out and began making harassing phone calls and showing up to stand outside the church or block its driveway. He said Giusti is more than 6 feet tall and weighs over 300 pounds.
“He’s a very menacing person while angry,” Jones said.
Jones said he tried to negotiate with Giusti but that the harassment didn’t stop. “He would seem to stop for a while but then it would pop up again,” Jones said.
Jones said Giusti is knowledgeable about technology, especially how to manipulate phones “and make … calls look like they come from someone else’s phone.”
“Some church employees have received repeated hang-up calls not only to published numbers but to numbers that are supposedly unpublished and private,” Jones said. “This is extremely unsettling. And he will not stop.”
Jones said, however, that he has gotten to know Giusti and was sorry to hear of his arrest today. “I personally am very sad for Mr. Giusti,” he said.
“I think he’s a bright guy,” he said.
San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Giusti was convicted of a felony offense in that county in 2004.
Wagstaffe said Giusti was a well-known fare evader on Caltrain and had threatened a conductor who tried to collect his fare. The conductor called the sheriff’s office and Giusti was arrested.
On Feb. 1, 2004, the district attorney’s office recommended that Giusti be sent to state prison. But the judge decided to give him one year in county jail, three years’ probation, mental health treatment, and a payment to the victim of $400, Wagstaffe said. His probation expired in 2008.
Giusti was also convicted in San Mateo County in two misdemeanor vandalism cases involving BART in the 1990s, Wagstaffe said.
He was sentenced to 20 days in county jail for the first conviction in 1994, and was given 30 days in jail and had to pay restitution to BART for a second conviction in 1998, according to Wagstaffe.
BART spokesman Linton Johnson confirmed that BART has had contact with a man named Gregory Giusti, but said he could not provide details.
Wagstaffe said Giusti showed a pattern of odd behavior over time.
“Where the pattern jumped over to Nancy Pelosi and the health care bill, I don’t know,” he said.
Giusti also had two convictions in San Francisco, according to San Francisco District Attorney’s Office spokesman Brian Buckelew.
In January 1992, he was convicted of felony petty theft, sentenced to 120 days in an alternative program and told to stay away from Club Donatello, where the theft occurred, Buckelew said.
Two months later, Giusti was convicted in a welfare fraud case. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of perjury and was ordered to pay $5,121 in restitution, according to Buckelew.
Club Donatello is located several blocks from where Giusti now lives at the Marlton Manor apartments at 240 Jones St.
The building provides single-room occupancy housing to low-income residents, said Sister Lorna Walsh of Mercy Housing, the nonprofit that oversees the apartments.
Walsh, who has worked at the building for five years, said she knows Giusti but declined to speak about him other than to say he has lived there for about a decade.
“I’ve known him for the time I’ve been at the property,” Walsh said.
She said he was arrested around lunchtime today.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, briefly addressed the threats against Pelosi while speaking at a roundtable discussion on the health care bill in Daly City this afternoon.
“All of us elected officials are accustomed to getting threats,” Speier said. “That’s part of the job.”
“We’re a country of laws,” she added. “If you threaten an elected official, you will be arrested, charged and tried.”