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Judge orders trial for men accused in Palin case

Posted: December 15, 2011 - 1:12am

ANCHORAGE — Two Pennsylvania men accused of harassing Sarah Palin’s Alaska lawyers by phone are going to have to stand trial, a federal court judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess rejected a plea deal for Shawn Christy, 20, and his father, Craig Christy, 48, and instead ordered the men to stand trial in early January.

The plea agreement would have let the two avoid prison time and six-figure fines.

Burgess said the plea agreements prosecutors had reached with the Christys were unacceptable to him. The judge cited what he described as a disturbing pattern of threats.

“They seem undeterred in their conduct,” Burgess said. Last month, he delayed action on the plea deal and reset the hearing to Wednesday, saying at the time that he was uncomfortable with the “all-or-nothing” agreements. He also said at the time he had not had a chance to review presentencing reports.

The Christys were arrested in Pennsylvania in August and are in custody in Anchorage. Prosecutors said the men were upset about state restraining orders issued on behalf of the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, along with Palin family members and friends.

The restraining orders were issued after Palin left office.

The restraining order against Shawn Christy was issued last year because he was accused of stalking Palin.

It was renewed earlier this year after Palin testified that Shawn Christy appeared to be sending out 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 the teen in 2009.

The order against Craig Christy was issued in May 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 in November.

The state restraining orders against the men have been extended another six months.

Tiemessen, who appeared at Wednesday’s hearing, declined to comment.

According to an affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Jacqueline A. DeCou, Craig Christy threatened to kill Tiemessen in one obscenity-riddled message and in another message Shawn Christy said he might have sex with Palin. The affidavit says 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 documents say Tiemessen’s offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks received hundreds of calls in early August, including about 250 calls on one day, with some of the calls involving threats against Tiemessen and Palin.

“The tone of the messages was putting the staff on edge because they have been threatened by the Christys,” the affidavit says.

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