2 plead guilty to harassing Sarah Palin's lawyers
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A 20-year-old Pennsylvania man and his father pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges of harassing Sarah Palin's Alaska attorneys by phone.
Shawn Christy and his 48-year-old father, Craig Christy, appeared in U.S. District Court in Anchorage to enter their pleas to one count each of making harassing telephone calls. A sentencing date was not set.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess last week denied a motion by the McAdoo, Pa., men to reassign the case to another judge. Their only options were to go to trial or plead guilty.
Burgess rejected binding plea deals in December that would have allowed the men to avoid prison time, citing what he described as a disturbing pattern of threats. Without the plea deals, the Christys are facing up to two years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
The Christys were arrested in Pennsylvania in August. Prosecutors say the Christys were upset about state restraining orders issued on behalf of Palin, who served as Alaska's governor from 2006 to 2009 and was the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Retta-Rae Randall said the government plans to hire a private psychiatrist to review past mental health evaluations of the men. No new evaluations have been ordered, at least for now, Randall said.
Assistant Federal Defender Mary Geddes, who represents Shawn Christy, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Craig Christy's attorney, James Wendt, said his client chose to plead straight out rather than attempt a non-binding plea agreement. He said the judge has made it clear he does not like the restraints of a binding agreement.
"We just thought it was the easiest thing to do, quite frankly," Wendt said.
When he rejected the earlier proposed pleas, Burgess said the Christys seemed undeterred in their conduct.
The state restraining orders were issued after Palin left office.
The order against Shawn Christy was issued in 2010 because he was accused of stalking Palin. It was renewed last year after Palin testified that Shawn Christy appeared to be sending a clear signal when he made a one-day visit to Alaska on her birthday in February.
She also said she feared Christy's parents because of their contentions that she had a sexting relationship with their son in 2009, when he was a teenager.
The order against Craig Christy was issued last year after he was accused of barraging Palin's parents with antagonizing telephone messages. The orders for both men, which were extended last fall for another six months, also cover Palin's family and friends.
The Christys later acknowledged making harassing phone calls from Pennsylvania to Palin's attorney, John Tiemessen.
"I'm glad to see them finally admit their guilt," Tiemessen said Monday of the pleas.
He expects to testify at the sentencing on behalf of his law firm, whose offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks received hundreds of calls in early August, including about 250 calls on one day, according to an affidavit by the FBI. Some of the calls involved threats against Tiemessen and Palin, the FBI said.
According to the affidavit, Craig Christy threatened to kill Tiemessen in one obscenity-filled message, and in another message Shawn Christy said he might have sex with Palin.
The affidavit said the younger Christy also threatened to ransom Tiemessen's children and take away everything he loves, stating the lawyer would be "nobody" by the time Shawn Christy was done.
"So if you don't want that life, pay me some . . . money now, and I'll be quiet and I'll go away," Shawn Christy said, according to the affidavit.
Shawn Christy also threatened to come to Alaska and rape one of the attorneys, according to the documents.
The law firm is seeking restitution for the billable hours the law firm says were tied up in dealing with the enormous number of calls.
Wendt, Craig Christy's attorney, has called the restitution sought excessive, saying it amounted to a little more than $15,000.