Robert Chain is the 68-year-old Encino, California, man who authorities say was behind a series of death threats against Boston Globe employees this month. Chain was arrested in California on August 30 and charged with one count of threats in interstate communications.
In the calls, Chain told newspaper staffers he was upset about negative coverage about President Donald Trump, according to federal authorities. Chain echoed the phrase often used by Trump in calling the Globe and other media the “enemy of the people.”
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, a Trump appointee, said in a statement, “In the past few months, this office has charged people with threatening to bomb a minority commencement ceremony at Harvard, threatening to shoot people at a Second Amendment rally, offering money to anyone who kills a federal agent, and mailing white powder and threatening notes to certain public figures. Anyone – regardless of political affiliation – who puts others in fear for their lives will be prosecuted by this office. 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.”
Jane Bowman, a spokeswoman for the Globe, said in a statement, “We are grateful to the FBI, the US Attorney’s Office, the Boston Police, and local authorities in California for the work they did in protecting the Globe while threats were coming in, for investigating the source, and for making this arrest. We couldn’t have asked for a stronger response. 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.”
Here’s what you need to know about Robert Chain:
1. The FBI Says Chain Started Making Death Threats to Boston Globe Employees After the Globe Launched an Editorial Campaign Against President Trump
On August 10, the Boston Globe announced plans to carry out a nation-wide editorial campaign against President Trump and his alleged attacks on the media. The Globe’s editors said they wanted newspapers around the country to publish editorials on August 16 in response to Trump’s statements about the media. You can read more about that here.
As soon as the Globe announced its plans, the newspaper started receiving threatening phone calls an “unidentified male caller” who threatened to travel to the Globe’s offices and kill its employees. Newspaper staff recorded some of the calls and determined that it was the same male caller making all the phone calls. Law enforcement later identified the voice — using “subscriber phone records” — as belonging to Robert Chain.
2. The Globe Asked For Extra Security After the Explicit Language and Death Threats Threats Frightened Its Staff
The “male caller” who threatened Globe staff used explicit language that, in some cases, seemed to reference some of President Trump’s statements, in some cases calling journalists “the enemy of the people.”
In one angry message, Chain allegedly said, “You’re the enemy of the people, and we’re going to kill every f***ing 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 f*****? Alright, why, you going to trace my call? What are you going to do motherf***er? You ain’t going to do s***. I’m going to shoot you in the f***ing head later today, at 4 o’clock. Goodbye.”
That call was made on Augusts 16. In response to the call, Boston police mounted a patrol in and around the Globe’s headquarters. Police were stationed in the lobby and around the perimeter of the building.
3. Chain Owns Several Firearms, Including A New Rifle Purchased in May 2018
The 68 year old Chain is a native of Encino, California. The FBI says that in May, Chain bought himself a new 9mm carbine rifle. He already owned at least one other gun.
The FBI did not say whether Chain has any prior criminal record.Chain allegedly threatened to travel to the Globe’s Boston offices and shoot reporters with his gun, after the newspaper launched a call for newspapers around the country to run editorials against President Trump’s alleged attacks on the media.
4. Chain’s Wife Is a Licensed Attorney in California
Chain is married to Betsy Staszek Chain, who is an attorney in Los Angeles County, California. She has been admitted to the bar in California since 1982 and has no disciplinary action on her record.
It was not immediately clear whether she would be involved in her husband’s defense. Chain was arrested in California on Thursday. He was due to appear before a court in Los Angeles on Thursday and then was expected to be sent to Boston at a later date to face trial on one charge of making threatening communications in interstate commerce.
The special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, Harold Shaw, said in a statement that the FBI takes death threats extremely seriously and will not tolerate them, even if they are intended as hoaxes.
Speaking of Chain’s arrest, Shaw said, “Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but threatening to kill people, takes it over the line and will not be tolerated. Today’s arrest of Robert Chain should serve a warning to others, that making threats is not a prank, it’s a federal crime. All threats are taken seriously, as we never know if the subject behind the threat intends to follow through with their actions. Whether potentially hoax or not, each and every threat will be aggressively run to ground.”
5. If Convicted, Chain Could Spend Up to Five Years in Prison and Pay a Fine of Up to $250,000
The charge of making threatening communications in interstate commerce provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, and one year of supervised release. The sentence could also carry a fine of $250,000.
Authorities say that Chain made approximately 14 threatening phone calls to the Globe between August 10 and 22, 2018. On August 16, the day that the co-ordinated editorial campaign against President Trump appeared in newspapers around the country, Chain allegedly called newspapers and threatened to shoot employees in the head at 4PM. That’s when the newspaper requested, and received, police protection at Globe headquarters in Boston.