A Long Island man was charged with harassment Friday after he allegedly made about 50 “rambling” phone calls to U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman’s (D-Bayside) Bayside office, including one threatening message aimed at local and federal law enforcement, Nassau County police said.
James Guarnaccio, 55, of 62 East End Ave. in Hicksville, L.I., allegedly left 40 messages on Ackerman’s office phone between Dec. 23 and Jan. 13, police said.
“The content of the calls were of a rambling nature and were not threats against the congressman,” according to Nassau’s Special Investigations Squad.
Ackerman said he did not believe the calls were sparked by the shootings in Tucson, Ariz., about two weeks ago,since the caller started leaving messages before the incident.
“He would keep calling,” Ackerman said Monday, noting that the caller said his name was James Guarnaccio. “He called at night. This guy continued to call. He was getting agitated for some time.”
Ackerman said his office notified police after Guarnaccio started posing as an FBI agent and left messages referring to a fake FBI badge number and using the phrase “red flag” numerous times.
He said he is not under any increased protection but said local law enforcement is aware of the situation and Guarnaccio had been known to police for some time.
Detectives from the squad visited Guarnaccio’s Hicksville home Jan. 13 and told him to stop making the phone calls to Ackerman’s Bayside office or he would be arrested.
The congressman said the caller “was very menacing, threatening the police officers. It’s just an angry rant claiming he’s the FBI.”
Ackerman then got another call, allegedly from Guarnaccio, who said he would shoot police officers if they came to his home again.
The congressman was concerned whether Guarnaccio was making empty threats or if he would follow through with his plans.
“I asked police if he had a license to carry a gun or he had a gun,” Ackerman said, but the police told him Guarnaccio did not. “What went through my mind is ‘Did he have a gun?’ and ‘What kind of damage can he do?’”
Guarnaccio allegedly did not listen to the cops and made about seven more phone calls to Ackerman’s office Jan. 13 and Friday, the squad said.
“On one of these calls, the defendant made threats against local and federal law enforcement,” police said.
Guarnaccio was arrested around 7:10 p.m. Friday on South Oyster Bay Road in Hicksville and taken to Nassau University Medical Center to be admitted for evaluation, police said.
Guarnaccio was arraigned Saturday by his hospital bed on two counts of aggravated harassment, police said.
The calls to Ackerman came two weeks after his colleague, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in the head as she met with constituents in Tucson.
Jared Lee Loughner, 22, of Tucson has been charged with trying to assassinate Giffords and in the fatal shootings of six others, including a federal judge.
Loughner allegedly wounded 13 other people aside from Giffords.
Ackerman said there is a link between “public discourse,” guns and the mentally ill, saying such individuals are more prone to violence.
“We’re sort of at the marriage with the gun people and the mentally ill,” he said. “It doesn’t take much to manipulate the mind of a mentally ill person.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2011 Community News Group
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