A 68-year-old California man was charged with making multiple violent threats against employees of the Boston Globe as it coordinated calls for hundreds of newspapers to write editorials supporting the free press.
The man, Robert Chain of Encino, was charged with one count of making threatening communications in interstate commerce. Federal prosecutors said that he will appear in a Los Angeles court on Thursday and will be transferred to Boston.
The Justice Department said that his threats stem from the Aug. 10 announcement by the Globe calling for papers around the country to editorialize on the importance of a free press amid attacks on the media. Hundreds of newspapers participated on Aug. 16, and many criticized President Donald Trump for his ongoing broadsides against news outlets.
The DOJ claims that Chain made 14 threatening phone calls to the Globe, between Aug. 10 and 22, and referred to the paper as the “the enemy of the people” and threatened to kill newsroom employees. On the day of the editorials, he called the Globe newsroom and threatened to shoot employees in the head “later today, at 4 o’clock,” prosecutors claim. After that call, local law enforcement maintained a presence outside the Globe’s building.
According to an affidavit filed by prosecutors in federal court, Chain stated in the call that “You’re the enemy of the people, and we’re going to kill every fucking one of you. Hey, why don’t you call the F, why don’t you call Mueller, maybe he can help you out buddy. Still there faggot? Alright, why, you going to trace my call? What are you going to do motherfucker? You ain’t going to do shit. I’m going to shoot you in the fucking head later today, at 4 o’clock. Goodbye.”
Investigators traced the calls through records from Verizon, the Globe’s provider, and Charter Communications, the suspect’s service.
In a call on Aug. 22, prosecutors say a Globe employee received another call from Chain and asked why he was calling.
“Because you are the enemy of the people, and I want you to go fuck yourself. As long as you keep attacking the president, in the continuation of your treasonous and seditious acts, I will continue to threats, harass, and annoy the Boston Globe, owned by The New York Times, the other fake news.”
The Times sold the Globe in 2013.
Trump has referred to the “fake news media” as the “enemy of the people,” including in a tweet he posted on Thursday.
As rhetoric has escalated against the news media, White House correspondents have expressed concern of violence against reporters, particularly at Trump’s rallies.
The DOJ said that the charge against Chain provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
“Anyone — regardless of political affiliation — who puts others in fear for their lives will be prosecuted by this office,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling. “In a time of increasing political polarization, and amid the increasing incidence of mass shootings, members of the public must police their own political rhetoric. Or we will.”
According to the affidavit, Chain owns several firearms, and bought a 9mm carbine rifle in May.
On June 28, a man opened fire in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, killing five people. The assailant, Jarrod W. Ramos, had had a long dispute with the paper over its coverage of allegations that he harassed a former high school classmate.