Man charged with making death threats over Trump editorials

LOS ANGELES — 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 on charges he threatened to kill the newspaper’s journalists, who he called an “enemy of the people,” federal prosecutors said.

Robert Chain’s phone calls to the Boston 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. He is accused of making 14 calls between Aug. 10 and Aug. 22.

On Aug. 16, the day scores of editorials were published , Chain, 68, of the Encino section of Los Angeles, told a Globe staffer that he was going to shoot employees in the head at 4 o’clock, 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 characterization of journalists that Trump has used repeatedly, including in a tweet on Thursday before the charges were announced.

Newsrooms have received threats for years and rarely do they result in charges. However, 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.

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,” Massachusetts U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

Magistrate Judge Paul Abrams said Chain could be freed after he and his wife, who is a lawyer, signed papers guaranteeing to pay $50,000 if he violates any terms of his release, which include surrendering his passport and any other guns.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to keep him in custody for a night,” Abrams said in rejecting a prosecutor’s request to stay his order so they could appeal to have him held.