LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/CBS Boston) – An Encino man was arrested Thursday morning on allegations of making repeated violent threats against Boston Globe newspaper employees earlier this month in response to the paper’s efforts to counter political attacks on the media from President Donald Trump.
Robert D. Chain, 68, was taken into custody during a raid at his Encino home by FBI agents early Thursday morning. He is charged with one count of making threatening communications in interstate commerce.
“About six o’clock this morning, we heard three explosions, which I initially thought was an electrical transformer or something along those lines,” neighbor Tim McGowan told CBS2. “So we looked out the window, and we could see what looked like an Army-style truck of some kind and all sorts of guys dressed up in fatigues with sub-machine guns and all that. There was probably at least 30 or 40 people here.”
Chain’s first hearing was scheduled for Thursday afternoon in a Los Angeles federal courtroom. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
Chain allegedly began making threatening phone calls on Aug. 10, the same day the Boston Globe announced it and hundreds of other publications around the nation were conducting a “coordinated editorial response to political attacks on the media,” according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office for the district of Massachusetts.
Prosecutors say Chain made 14 threatening phone calls to the Globe from Aug. 10 to Aug. 22. In his calls, he referred to the Globe as “the enemy of the people.”
It happened to be the same phrase that President Trump used in a Thursday morning tweet.
“I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the Media is,” Trump wrote. “Truth doesn’t matter to them, they only have their hatred & agenda. This includes fake books, which come out about me all the time, always anonymous sources, and are pure fiction. Enemy of the People!”
On Aug. 16, the day the coordinated editorials went to print, Chain called the Boston Globe newsroom and threatened to shoot Globe employees in the head “later today, at 4 o’clock,” federal prosecutors said.
Due to the threat, Boston police responded and provided a presence outside the building to protect newspaper employees.
The FBI seized several long guns during the raid of Chain’s home. CBS News reports that Chain owns “multiple firearms,” and that he purchased a new 9mm rifle in May. A Facebook photo showed Chain and his son holding handguns.
Neighbors who spoke to CBS2 Thursday said they were shocked by the allegations.
“Robert keeps to himself, seems like a really nice guy, was always really nice to us,” neighbor Blake Oliver said. “He’d hang out in his backyard, and listen to classic rock and smoke pot. This is not what I expected at all.”
“He’s such a nice guy, he always helps me with my husband, he’s coming to my house, everything,” neighbor Nahid Pezeshki added.
Authorities did not disclose how investigators linked Chain to the threats.
“Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but threatening to kill people, takes it over the line and will not be tolerated,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, Boston Division, in a statement. “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.”
The Globe released the following statement Thursday in response to the arrest:
“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.”