Lawyer: Man accused of threats to kill senators has dementia

In this undated photo provided by the Suffolk County Police Department in Yaphank, N.Y., Ronald DeRisi is shown. On Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, DeRisi, 74, was charged with leaving a series of voicemails threatening to kill two U.S. senators over Brett Kavanaugh's U.S. Supreme Court confirmation. (Suffolk County Police Department via AP)

CENTRAL ISLIP, New York (AP) — A man charged with threatening to kill U.S. senators over Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court confirmation has dementia and isn’t dangerous, his lawyer said as the 74-year-old was ordered held without bail.

Ronald DeRisi was arraigned Friday after prosecutors said he left a series of voicemails threatening two senators for supporting Kavanaugh’s recent confirmation. The lawmakers haven’t been publicly identified.

One message warned, “I’m gonna get you,” according to a criminal complaint. It said another voicemail talked about a “present” for a senator and added, “It’s a 9 mm.”

“Representative democracy cannot work if elected officials are threatened with death for simply doing their job,” the U.S. attorney for Long Island, Richard Donoghue, said in a statement.

DeRisi’s lawyer, Peter Brill, told news outlets his client’s brain-atrophying condition has caused behavior problems. The attorney said DeRisi is “belligerent,” but not violent, and poses no physical threat to anyone.

“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.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Justina Geraci said DeRisi used a pre-paid cellphone, fake name and other strategies to mask his identity. Geraci said that showed “a level of criminal intent.”

Authorities said ammunition for a 9-mm gun, but no firearms, were found in DeRisi’s Smithtown home. Brill said DeRisi used to own guns but gave them to a relative.

DiRisi was arrested in 2011 after being accused of using a decorative samurai sword to cut cables on a cellphone tower he believed was linked to his wife’s cancer, and he was arrested again in 2015 on charges of threatening a lawyer for his homeowner’s association amid a dispute over resident fees, his lawyer said. He said neither case resulted in a felony conviction or jail time.

A judge Friday ordered a psychological evaluation for DeRisi.

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