2 men sentenced in Palin lawyer harassment case
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Two Pennsylvania men convicted of harassing Sarah Palin's Alaska lawyers were sentenced Friday to time served and five years' probation, with the proceedings briefly halted after a short outburst in court by one of them.
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During his sentencing in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, 20-year-old Shawn Christy said the judge's order that he live up to six months in a Pennsylvania community re-entry program was "ridiculous."
His father, Craig Christy, 48, was ordered to perform community service.
The Christys, of McAdoo, Pa., pleaded guilty in January to making harassing phone calls to Palin's attorneys. Attorney John Tiemessen testified that the men's calls threatened Palin and attorneys. Both Christys apologized Friday for their actions.
Shawn Christy was released and sent back to Pennsylvania last month after an evaluation report said he wasn't a danger to the public.
Before that, he and his father had been held since their arrests in Pennsylvania last August. Prosecutors say the men were upset about state restraining orders issued on behalf of Palin, a former Alaska governor and the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate. The restraining orders covered Palin, her family and friends.
In Friday's sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess ordered Shawn Christy to spend up to six months at the Scranton residential facility, where a bed will become available in mid-July. Christy wanted to return to his parent's home, where he had been living until his arrest last year.
"Why can't I go home now?" he said.
"Because I'm not letting you go home," Burgess said, prompting Christy to ask what was the judge's reason for imposing the order.
"It has to do with consequences," Burgess said. "It's part of the consequences for your behavior."
"I understand my behavior, and I understand this is ridiculous," Christy said. A short time letter, Burgess called for a short recess after blurts from Christy.
After the sentencing was completed, Tiemessen said Christy's behavior in court was consistent with what he and others had witnessed in the past two years, including hundreds of calls from the Christys to his law firm's offices in Fairbanks and Anchorage.
"I've seen dozens and dozens of such little outbursts and worst," Tiemessen. "It just the first one Judge Burgess has seen."
Burgess rejected binding plea deals in December that would have allowed the men to avoid jail time.
Both men faced up to two years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. Tiemessen's law firm also is seeking about $15,000 in restitution for the billable hours it says were tied up in dealing with the huge number of calls to its offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Defense attorneys have said the Christys don't have the financial means to pay restitution, and Burgess did not rule on that issue Friday, saying a final decision can be made up to 90 days after sentencing.
Tiemessen testified earlier this year that many of the calls from the Christys began last June, escalating in July and August. Besides being threatening, many were filled with profanity, he said.
"There were hundreds of calls a day," he said at the time. "The only thing that ever stopped it, frankly, was when they were taken into custody."
According to an affidavit by the FBI, Craig Christy threatened to kill Tiemessen in one obscenity-filled message, and in another, Shawn Christy said he might have sex with Palin. The younger Christy also threatened to come to Alaska and rape one of the attorneys, according to the document.
The restraining orders were issued after Palin left office.
The order against Shawn Christy was issued in 2010 after he was accused of stalking Palin. It was renewed last year after Palin testified that Christy appeared to be sending a clear signal when he made a one-day visit to Alaska on her February birthday.
Palin also said she feared Christy's parents because of their claim that she had a sexting relationship with their son in 2009, when he was a teen.
The order against Craig Christy was issued last year after he was accused of barraging Palin's parents with telephone messages.
Palin's parents, Chuck and Sally Heath, attended the hearing Friday. They declined to comment.
Tiemessen said time will tell if the sentencing was adequate.
"The only adequate remedy is a remedy that results in our firm, our families, our clients being left alone," he said. "We're interested in the result, not necessarily the mechanism, that achieves it.