Man charged with making death threats to Boston Globe journalists over Trump editorials

The Los Angeles man was upset about the Globe's coordinated editorial response to President Trump's attacks on the news media.

Investigators were seen in the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles at the home of Robert Darrell Chain, who allegedly threatened to kill Boston Globe employees.
Investigators were seen in the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles at the home of Robert Darrell Chain, who allegedly threatened to kill Boston Globe employees. –Matt Sayles for The Boston Globe

BOSTON (AP) — A Los Angeles man upset about The Boston Globe‘s coordinated editorial response to President Donald Trump’s attacks on the news media was arrested Thursday for threatening to kill the newspaper’s journalists, whom he called the “enemy of the people,” federal prosecutors said.

Robert Chain’s threatening phone calls to the Globe’s newsroom started immediately after the Globe appealed to newspapers across the country to condemn what it called a “dirty war against the free press,” prosecutors said.

The day the editorials were published , Chain, 68, of the Encino section of LA, told a Globe staffer that he was going to shoot employees in the head at 4 o’clock, according to court documents. That threat prompted a police response and increased security at the newspaper’s offices.

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After the editorials ran, 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 characterization of journalists that Trump has used in the past.

Records show Chain owns several guns, including a 9mm carbine rifle he bought in May, authorities said.

It was not immediately clear if Chain has an attorney. Phone messages left at his wife’s law office and with person listed as a relative didn’t immediately return a phone messages.

A neighbor who lived across the street from Chain and only knew him as “Rob” said he had a bombastic personality and could frequently be heard yelling at his television.

Tim McGowan said he knew nothing of Chain’s political leanings but assumed he was an old hippie because he wore his hair in a man bun and frequently walked around in just shorts with his big belly protruding.

McGowan said he couldn’t imagine Chain following through with violence, “but I could see him making the threats because he’s such a loud mouth.”

McGowan said he was startled awake by three loud bangs at 6 a.m. Thursday. His wife called police, who told her they were the source of the commotion.

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When he looked outside, he saw about 30 heavily armed officers in and a tank-like vehicle. Chain eventually emerged from the house in handcuffs wearing only boxer shorts.

“When I saw Rob in handcuffs standing there in his underwear, I was, like, ‘What the heck is going on here?'” McGowan said. He subsequently learned what happened from reporters who showed up at his door, adding that he had learned more about his neighbor in a few hours than he had in nine years.

Chain is expected to appear in Los Angeles’ federal court and be transferred to Boston at a later date. He’s charged with making threatening communications in interstate commerce, which calls for up to five years in prison.

Jane Bowman, a spokeswoman 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, but sensitivity has been heightened since a gunman with a long-running grudge against the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, killed five employees there in June.

The editorials inspired by the Globe drew attention to animosity toward the news media that has been fanned by Trump, who has referred to the press as the “enemy of the people” and has frequently claimed it is creating “fake news.”

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Federal officials pledged to continue to go after anyone who puts others in fear of their lives.

“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,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.

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Melley reported from Los Angeles.

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This story corrects the name of the Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper to Capital Gazette.