A Smithtown man pleaded guilty Thursday to threatening to attack and kill two U.S. senators over their support and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court last year, federal officials said.
Ronald DeRisi, 74, faces up to 10 years in prison on the charges and will forfeit two rifles as part of an agreement with the federal government, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District, which covers Long Island. He will be sentenced May 2.
Last September and October, as senators debated President Donald Trump's nominee to the top court, DeRisi left more than 10 threatening voicemails at the offices of the two senators, authorities said.
The two senators were not named in the complaint, but a message to one of them said the caller had a “present” for "the senator”: “It’s a 9-millimeter. Side of your [expletive] … skull … Yeah Kavanaugh — I don’t think so."
DeRisi's attorney Martin Geduldig of Plainview called the case a "sad" story of a man who had once been a vice president in a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange and had raised three children. "This conduct is an aberration and all he wants now is to get it behind him and go back to the life he's lived for the last 70 years," he said.
DeRisi, who is jailed in Brooklyn, has had three failed back surgeries, the attorney said. "He's in tremendous pain and that tends to lead him to do things that he would otherwise not do," Geduldig said.
The threats led to a Capitol Hill police investigation, and with help from the FBI and Suffolk police, DeRisi was arrested Oct. 19. Authorities who searched his home said they seized the prepaid cellphone that had been used to make the threatening calls, as well as ammunition.
“This defendant threatened to assault and murder two sitting United States senators in an effort to intimidate them and interfere with their performance of official duties,” U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue of the Eastern District said in a news release. “Ours is a system of laws — not threats — and the Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute those who seek to undermine the integrity of our constitutional system through violence.”
After DeRisi's arrest, his attorney at the time, Peter Brill of Hauppauge, argued in federal court in Central Islip that his client was essentially a loudmouth with diminished mental capacity who was not capable of physically harming anyone.
Brill had said his client had a form of dementia and had several brushes with the law in the past few years. In a case in Nassau, he said, DeRisi threatened the lawyer for his homeowners association in a dispute over resident fees. In a second, in Suffolk, Brill said DeRisi, armed with a samurai sword, climbed a cellphone tower next to his home and hacked at cables there, believing the installation had caused his wife to get cancer. But Brill said the cases were resolved without a felony conviction.