National News

Man Charged With Threatening to Murder 2 Senators Who Supported Kavanaugh

Posted October 19, 2018 9:38 p.m. EDT

A 74-year-old Long Island man was arrested Friday on charges that he made death threats against two U.S. senators in retaliation for their support of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

The man, Ronald DeRisi, threatened to murder and assault the senators — who were not named — in more than 10 voicemail messages left to their offices, according to a complaint prepared by the U.S. Capitol Police.

In the voicemail messages, DeRisi, who is from Smithtown, New York, used threats of bodily harm laced with expletives to discourage the senators from voting to approve Kavanaugh’s nomination and then admonished one for doing so, the complaint said.

DeRisi was ordered by a federal judge Friday to be detained because he could pose a danger to the community, said John Marzulli, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York. The judge also ordered a psychological evaluation.

After executing a search warrant, investigators found ammunition for a 9-millimeter gun at DeRisi’s home, Marzulli said. They found a BB gun at the home but no firearms, he said.

Peter E. Brill, DeRisi’s lawyer, said his client had serious dementia that has resulted in a pattern of behavioral problems.

“He’s gotten to the point where he is not able to comprehend right and wrong,” Brill said. “He’s not in entire control of his faculties.”

One of the senators received the first of two voicemail messages on Sept. 27 threatening to shoot the official in the head with a 9 mm gun, according to the complaint. Brill said his client used to own firearms but gave them to a family member.

On Oct. 6, the day of the Senate’s confirmation vote, the other senator received a voicemail message warning, “You better pray this guy don’t get in,” the complaint said. Less than an hour later, the same caller left a voicemail message reading what he believed to be the senator’s home address.

Two days after Kavanaugh was confirmed, the same senator received a message saying, “Thanks to you ... we now have a sexual predator on the Supreme Court.” That senator received 10 voicemail messages from the same person, the complaint said.

The Kavanaugh nomination turned into a contentious partisan battle after he was accused by several women of sexual assault and sexual misconduct. He denied the allegations. During tensions over the vote, Capitol Police bolstered security for senators, like Susan Collins of Maine, who were undecided.

Capitol Police used the voice recordings and phone records to determine the calls were made by DeRisi, according to the complaint. A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police would not comment further on the case.

Threatening to kill a U.S. official is a federal crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

In 2011, DeRisi was arrested after using a decorative samurai sword to cut cables on a cell tower near his home, Brill said. He was released early from probation, Brill said.

DeRisi was also arrested in 2015 after allegedly threatening a lawyer for a homeowner’s association with which he had a dispute, Brill said. That case did not result in jail time, he noted.

After the 2015 incident, Brill said, a psychological evaluation found that DeRisi had cerebral atrophy that was likely affecting his actions.

In a statement Friday, Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said law enforcement would not tolerate threats of violence in an attempt to win a political dispute.

“Representative democracy cannot work if elected officials are threatened with death for simply doing their job,” he said.