ANCHORAGE — A federal judge in Alaska has delayed action on planned guilty pleas by a 20-year-old Pennsylvania man and his father who are accused of making harassing phone calls to Sarah Palin’s lawyers.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess said Monday he didn’t feel comfortable with the “all or nothing” agreement prosecutors made with Shawn Christy and his father Craig Christy, 48.
The Christys, both of McAdoo, Penn., appeared in federal court in Anchorage Monday to change their pleas from not guilty. But Burgess rescheduled their plea hearing and sentencing for Dec. 14, saying he did not like his “hands tied” by the agreements, which would allow the Christys to avoid up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Under the agreements, the Christys also would be placed on five years of probation and have no contact with certain people whose names were not disclosed. The men would be required to complete a mental health treatment program as well.
Burgess also said he had not had a chance to review presentencing reports in the case.
The Christys were arrested in Pennsylvania in August and are in custody in Anchorage. Prosecutors say the men were upset about state restraining orders issued by an Alaska magistrate on behalf of Palin — the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican presidential nominee — along with family members and friends.
The restraining order against Shawn Christy was issued and then renewed because he was accused of stalking Palin. The order against Craig Christy was issued after he was accused of barraging Palin’s parents with antagonizing telephone messages.
The men later acknowledged making harassing phone calls from Pennsylvania to Palin’s attorney, John Tiemessen. The Christys reached their plea deals with prosecutors last week.
In one obscenity-riddled message, Craig Christy threatened to kill Tiemessen, according to the criminal complaint. The documents say Tiemessen’s offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks received hundreds of calls, sometimes in one day, with some of the calls involving threats against Tiemessen and Palin.
In one message to lawyers, Shawn Christy threatened to come to Alaska and rape one of the attorneys, the documents say.
Craig Christy’s attorney, James Wendt, disagreed in court Monday with the amount sought for the billable hours the law firm says were tied up in dealing with the enormous number of calls. Wendt said the restitution sought was excessive and he asked that documentation be required of prosecutors.
The time billed amounted to a little more than $15,000, Wendt said afterward.
Tiemessen, who did not attend Monday’s court session, declined to comment about the case, citing the law firm’s unusual position of “being a victim.”