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Manchester man sentenced for threatening to kill Derry judge

Union Leader Correspondent

February 07. 2014 10:29PM
Gregory Gifford listens to Judge Paul Moore at his sentencing Friday in Rockingham County Superior Court. Gifford was convicted of making death threats against Moore when he was a family court judge in Derry. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

BRENTWOOD — A Manchester man will spend 7 to 14 years in state prison for threatening to kill a family court judge who ruled against him in a custody case involving his young son.

Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Kenneth McHugh handed down the sentence Friday after Gregory Gifford begged for forgiveness and Judge Paul Moore recalled how the death threats placed him and his family in fear.

"I want to help you. I told you about a year and a half ago, sir, that I wanted you to be the best dad that you could be and I still do," Moore said, speaking directly to Gifford during his sentencing.

But Moore continued to express concern about Gifford's anger.

"I don't believe that as you sit here today that you have that ability, not based upon your past history, not based upon what I've seen in court … I see somebody who is still very, very angry and has substance abuse issues that you haven't addressed," he said.

Gifford, 48, was convicted last November of three counts of making threats to a government official for sending e-mails to Derry police in 2012 in which he threatened to kill Moore, who was a Derry family court judge at the time.

The threats began after Moore gave guardianship of Gifford's now 4-years-old son to another family member.

In one of the e-mails, Gifford wrote, "Judge Moore is a dead man for kidnapping my son without due process."

Prosecutors said he also called the Derry court and told a clerk, "Put Paul Moore on the (expletive) phone. I will kill Paul Moore. He is a dead (expletive)."

He also sent messages to Gov. John Lynch's Office of Citizen Services, including one that read, "I am going to start killing people. Ask Judge Moore how many people have to die before I get my due process."

Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati said Gifford had a history of threatening officials.

At Friday's sentencing, Moore told Gifford that he never wanted to deprive him of his son and that the focus of the court proceedings was on making sure the boy was in a stable environment and had the necessary clothing, food and shelter.

"Not once did I want to stop you from seeing your son," said Moore, now the family court judge for the Merrimack Circuit Court.

Gifford, who blamed the family member for taking his son away, admitted that he has anger issues but insisted that he's not a threat.

"I have done some dumb things but I've never hurt anybody and I don't intend to hurt anybody," he said.

Gifford told the court that he has "no violence" in his past and has "never raised a weapon to anyone."

"I am truly apologetic. I beg for my freedom," he said.

Gifford said he would get the counseling he needs and asked for the court to give him another chance.

"My son is four years old. I've never heard him speak," he said.

Judge McHugh spoke about the seriousness of the threats, which he said were not veiled but "very stark."

"We just cannot operate as a society if we have to worry about death threats and that's why we take these cases so seriously," he said.

The threats were taken even more seriously because they were made more than once and months apart.

McHugh described Gifford as an explosive father who has shown no sign of apologizing until his sentencing hearing."There is no indication that this gentleman gets it," McHugh said.

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