The 48-year-old California man arrested yesterday for making death threats against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has "a history of mental problems," his mother told reporters from San Francisco's ABC News. This history is reflected in previous death threats against others with whom he took umbrage.
Gregory Giusti was convicted in 2004 of criminal threats: The San Mateo District Attorney's office says he was trying to evade the fare on a local commuter train; when the conductor ordered him to get off the train, Giusti began yelling and threatening the conductor's life. As a result, Giusti was sentenced to one year in county jail and three years supervised probation, according to ABC News, which adds that he was also ordered to undergo mental health counseling, and that "a lawsuit filed in February by Hamilton Square Baptist Church in San Francisco ... says Giusti has engaged in and continues to engage in a campaign of harassment against people at the church."
Giusti has a record of dodging public-transit fares and causing disruptions. He was sued by the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in 1996. According to ABC News, he also has two convictions in San Francisco for welfare fraud and petty theft from 1992.
His mother, Eleanor Giusti, told reporters that "she does not think he would be capable of carrying out the threat; he has never owned a gun, and she blames Fox News for getting her son worked up." Asked what could have influenced her son, she told the reporters: "I say Fox News, or all of those that are really radical."
We can all empathize with parents whose children get into trouble -- especially trouble that entails federal crimes. And we've all sought scapegoats to blame for our loved ones' shocking actions. Eleanor Giusti might not like Fox: She described her son's attitudes as "not consistent with myself or the rest of the family." But blaming a TV network for an adult viewer's actions is as off the mark as blaming heavy-metal music for teen vandalism. It will be interesting to learn more in the coming weeks and days about his mental health: Has he been diagnosed with any disorders; was he prescribed any medications?
Nonetheless, networks don't threaten people. People threaten people.