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United States Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is asking that a man convicted of threatening her and who has been prosecuted in Syracuse pay for a fence and security upgrades put up at the congresswoman’s Georgia home. 

Greene alleged threats levied by Joseph Morelli, 51, of Endicott, were “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” prosecutors said in a court filing. The threats led her to spend more than $66,000 on fencing and updated surveillance cameras at her home, they said.

Joseph Morelli, 51, of Endicott, New York, pleaded guilty in February 2023 to making several threatening calls to Greene’s offices. Prosecutors accused Morelli of making seven threatening phone calls.  

“You’ve got a big f*cking mouth, and I’m gonna show you what violence is really about,” prosecutors alleged Morelli said. “… I can have anyone come to you. I can pay someone 500 bucks to take a baseball bat and crack your skull.” 

Greene was elected to Congress in 2020 as a member of the Republican’s far right faction and has embraced conspiracy theories and advocated for violence against Democratic politicians. She is among the most prominent Republicans serving and has become a lightning rod for controversy. During the last session of Congress, Greene was stripped of her committee appointments. 

Morelli was set to be sentenced Wednesday morning before the hearing was postponed to Aug. 8. A federal judge could rule on Greene’s request for restitution at Morelli’s sentencing. He could be sentenced to up to five years in federal prison. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Southwick, who is prosecuting the case and submitted Greene’s request along with U.S. Attorney Carla Freedman, declined to comment on the case.  

Gabrielle DiBella, Morelli’s lawyer, said he is contesting the request for restitution. DiBella has argued that Morelli’s threats came over too short a period of time, that his threat was one of a litany of threats Greene has received and that she purchased the upgraded security too long after Morelli made his threats for Morelli to be the reason she needed the upgraded security.

“The way I see it, she probably got this fence because of the aggregate of what has happened to her,” DiBella said. “It’s not just one person in particular. I think it’s truly an incredible claim that because of Joe Morelli she has to spend $65,000 on this insane fence and $1,300 fixing her cameras.” 

Southwick laid out Greene’s argument for receiving restitution in a letter dated July 27 to Judge Brenda K. Sannes, the chief judge for the Northern District of New York. 

He argued Morelli’s conviction — three counts of transmitting interstate threatening communications — is considered a “crime of violence” under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996. “Restitution is mandatory,” Southwick wrote. 

Greene wrote in her victim impact statement that she paid for the security upgrades at her Georgia home with campaign funds. Southwick included an opinion from the Federal Election Commission that lays out the legality of using campaign funds to enhance security.

Greene spent $65,257.49 for fencing work in early 2023, eleven months after Morelli’s threats, and $1,375 for changes to her security cameras in October 2022, seven months after Morelli’s threats.

Morelli was released from jail shortly after being arrested in March 2022, which Southwick argued “buttressed” Greene’s fears. The congresswoman’s victim impact statement “contemplates that the defendant could have others act on his behalf to injure or kill” Greene, Southwick wrote. 

DiBella rebutted a number of Southwick’s claims in her own letter to Sannes. She argued: 

  • Morelli’s threats lasted over too short a period — seven hours — for Morelli to be the reason for Greene’s need for enhanced security. 
  • Greene has received so many threats that she cannot prove Morelli’s threats are the reason she needs enhanced security.
  • The congresswoman contracted for the upgraded security cameras and fencing seven and eleven months after Morelli’s threats, respectively — too long after his threats for them to be the reason she needed enhanced security.

Greene has said she receives daily death threats and has been the victim of six swatting attempts, according to DiBella. Swatting is the process of calling in a fake incident to police to prompt a SWAT team response to a home.

“Mr. Morelli is not legally responsible for the threats of others, and he cannot be made an example of for the threats of others,” DiBella wrote. 

DiBella also argued that Greene has, through social media, advocated for political violence against Democrats while spreading misinformation and disinformation to voters to create divisiveness, reducing Morelli’s culpability in Greene’s need for additional security.  

Regardless of Sanne’s decision on Greene’s restitution, Morelli is unlikely to be able to pay the restitution: He currently lives on social security disability insurance. 

DiBella said the root cause of Morelli’s threats against Greene was his mental health. Morelli was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after he was arrested and has since received treatment. 

He has not violated the conditions of his pretrial release since March 2022, DiBella said. 

“This is what happens when there’s a stigma and there’s a lack of resources surrounding getting mental health help,” DiBella said. 

Editor’s note: This story initially stated that Joseph Morelli was set to be sentenced Wednesday. His sentencing has since been delayed. The story has been updated to reflect the change.

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Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or libonati@centralcurrent.org.