A man upset about the Boston Globe’s coordinated editorial response to US President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media was arrested yesterday on charges he threatened to kill the newspaper’s journalists.
Robert Chain began calling the Boston newsroom after the Globe appealed to newspapers across the country to condemn what it called a “dirty war against the free press”, prosecutors said.
On 16 August, the day hundreds of editorials were published, Chain, 68, of the Encino section of Los Angeles, told a Globe employee that he was going to shoot employees in the head at 4pm, according to court documents.
That threat from a blocked phone number prompted a police response and increased security at the newspaper’s offices.
Chain said he would continue threatening the Globe until it stops its “treasonous and seditious” attacks on Trump, according to a court complaint.
Several times he called Globe employees the “enemy of the people,” a characterisation of journalists that Trump has used repeatedly.
Jane Bowman, a spokesperson for the Globe, said the newspaper is grateful for law enforcement’s efforts to protect its staffers and track down the source of the threats.
“While it was unsettling for many of our staffers to be threatened in such a way, nobody – really, nobody – let it get in the way of the important work of this institution,” she said in an email.
Newsrooms have received threats for years and rarely do they result in charges.
However, sensitivity has been heightened since a gunman killed five employees at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland in June.
Federal officials pledged to continue to go after anyone who puts others in fear of their lives.
“In a time of increasing political polarisation, and amid the increasing incidence of mass shootings, members of the public must police their own political rhetoric. Or we will,” Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling said.
Federal prosecutors asked that Chain be detained because of the seriousness of the threats combined with the fact that more than 20 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were seized from his house.
Some guns were in plain sight, such as a shotgun by the front door, while others were hidden, Assistant US Attorney Matt Rosenbaum said.
Rosenbaum acknowledged there was no evidence Chain, who is retired from the international sales and trade business, had planned to go to Boston.
A federal magistrate rejected claims that Chain, who has no criminal record, was a flight risk or a danger that required him to be held behind bars.
Chain was ordered to appear in a Boston courtroom by 24 September to answer to charges of making threatening communications in interstate commerce, which calls for up to five years in prison.
Picture: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster