A New York man was sentenced to three months in prison for threatening phone calls he made last year to Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Joseph Morelli, 51, of Endicott, was sentenced in federal court in Syracuse on Thursday after pleading guilty in February to making seven threatening calls to the Greene’s Washington, D.C., office March 3-4, 2022, according to The Post-Standard of Syracuse. Morelli has until Oct. 2 to turn himself in.
On March 3, 2022, Morelli left a voicemail to Greene’s office that said, “I’m gonna have to take your life into my own hands … I’m gonna hurt you. Physically, I’m gonna harm you,” according to prosecutors. He left a second message that same day threatening to “pay someone 500 bucks to take a baseball bat and crack your skull.”
In a third message, Morelli said, “You’re gonna cause people to get hurt, so I’m gonna have to hurt you physically … I’m gonna make sure that, even if they lock me up, someone’s gonna get you ‘cause I’ll pay them, too.”
Morelli was indicted a month later on three counts of transmitting interstate threatening communications.
Greene asked the judge to order Morelli to pay her $66,632 in restitution, because the threats required her to add more than 1,200 feet of fencing and upgrade security cameras at her home in Georgia. But Judge Brenda Sannes deferred a decision on the restitution.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Southwick argued in court Thursday that while Morelli did not purchase a firearm or car to drive to Georgia to follow through on his threats, he could have, The Post-Standard of Syracuse reported.
Southwick said Morelli has previously threatened others, including former Judge Joseph J. Cassata, and was “seeking confrontation with an authority figure.” Southwick said sentencing Morelli would deter him and others from making threats again and that Morelli should be held accountable for his crimes.
Morelli’s lawyer, Gabrielle DiBella of the federal public defender’s office, told the judge that her client has expressed remorse for his actions. DiBella, who has blamed Morelli’s threats on his bipolar disorder, said her client “is now doing everything in his power to work with treatment providers and minimize the struggles that he faces due to his mental health diagnosis.”
DiBella said Morelli had made the threats after coming across videos of Greene during a time when his health was deteriorating and was not in the best state of mind.
Two of the videos were of Greene confronting a Parkland shooting survivor, which DiBella said led Morelli to believe that Greene pushed hatred.
One video was an ad Greene made for a gun giveaway and impeaching President Joe Biden.
In a 2022 video, Greene said she was going to blow away the Democrat socialist agenda before she blew up a car with the word “socialism” on it. DiBella said Morelli, who lives on Social Security benefits, felt his Social Security relief was at risk after the video.
DiBella also argued that if Morelli served time in prison, he would lose his Social Security benefits and apartment and would have nowhere to go after his release.
The judge said she understood that Morelli’s threats were because of his mental health struggles, but the messages were still frightening and scared Greene’s family. Sannes said the lack of evidence showing Morelli’s intent to harm Greene or carry out the threats was taken into account.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.