BEVERLY — An autistic Beverly man who pleaded guilty last fall to sending threatening letters, some filled with white powder, to more than a dozen people, including Donald Trump Jr., is pleading with a federal judge for mercy.
“I am truly sorry for my actions and any fear or stress I caused,” Daniel Frisiello, 25, wrote in a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton ahead of his sentencing Friday.
Frisiello and his lawyer, William Fick, are urging Gorton to impose five years of probation, which would include a year of house arrest. They say any trip back to prison, where he spent 12 days before being released on conditions last March, would likely cause long-term damage to Frisiello.
But prosecutors in U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office are asking the judge to send Frisiello to prison for three years, to be followed by probation for three more years — and say their recommendation was tempered by Frisiello’s disabilities.
It will be up to Gorton to decide Frisiello’s punishment.
“I knew that sending threats was wrong but I didn’t fully understand how much my actions would affect so many people because I wrote too dramatically and mean,” Frisiello wrote to the judge. “I fully accept responsibility for my actions and whatever consequences that result.”
He also promised “to never do anything like this again. I hope you and the people I harmed can forgive me as I am very deeply sorry. I want to focus on positive things I can do for the the community in the future.”
But federal prosecutors say they believe that Frisiello only stopped sending the letters because he was caught and has been under close supervision since. They noted in a sentencing memorandum that he kept a “grudge list” of people he perceived as having done wrong, along with addresses of where they worked or lived.
And prosecutors say in a sentencing memorandum that they took into account Frisiello’s mental and emotional issues.
“Were it not for those characteristics, the United States would recommend incarceration at the top of the guidelines range,” prosecutor Scott Garland wrote.
Frisiello was arrested last year following an investigation into several letters containing white powder that the recipients feared was anthrax.
Investigators had used information Frisiello provided when he signed up for an online account to send a “glitter bomb” to another individual, then conducted surveillance of his home.
Besides the president’s adult sons, Frisiello targeted U.S. Sen. Deborah Stabenow, acting U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna, former actor and Congressional candidate Antonio Sabato Jr., and Michelle Dauber, a Stanford University professor, as well as two police chiefs and a state police colonel in Connecticut and a Rhode Island police chief investigating the death of Nathan Carman’s mother; a former Bristol County prosecutor prosecuting Michelle Carter, the former employer of one of his parents and an unnamed individual in Pennsylvania.
“From 2015 through 2018, Mr. Frisiello sent thirteen letters that threatened death, one that threatened rape,” prosecutors said. “Six included white powder. Most went to people engaged in public service and were motivated because of that service.”
“Despite Mr. Frisiello’s mental and emotional conditions, he understood and intended that his victims would be scared,” Garland wrote. “He wanted this, he admitted, because he has very strong beliefs and disagreed with his targets’ beliefs or actions,” said prosecutors.
Frisiello wanted his targets to feel threatened and angry, and used demeaning, profane and even anti-Semitic language, according to prosecutors.
“Probation is inappropriate because it would essentially be a continuation of Mr. Frisiello’s prior life before conviction, which was mostly staying at home,” the prosecutors wrote.
But Frisiello, who suffered from a lack of oxygen during birth, resulting in a brain injury, has struggled throughout his life, his attorney wrote in his own sentencing memorandum. Besides autism, Frisiello has been diagnosed with developmental disabilities, anxiety and other problems.
“After years of intervention and therapy, he can string together words to craft coherent adult sentences but still has the judgment and impulse control of a child and can be oblivious to the actual impact his words may have on others,” Fick wrote.
He received special education services throughout his school years, and took two years to complete a certificate program at North Shore Community College that typically takes one year.
“Daniel is uniquely ill-equipped to endure incarceration,” said the lawyer. “A prison environment would inflict acute psychological distress and long-term damage. Daniel also would be susceptible to exploitation, violence, and isolation.”
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.