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Calif. man pleads guilty to making threats against Globe employees

Robert D. Chain left court after pleading guilty.
Robert D. Chain left court after pleading guilty.(Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff)

A California man pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges that he threatened to kill employees of The Boston Globe in retaliation for the news organization’s national editorial campaign against President Trump’s attacks on the press.

In approximately 14 calls to the Globe’s newsroom in August, Robert D. Chain, 68, repeatedly vowed to attack journalists on behalf of Trump, who has denounced news organizations as the “enemy of the people.”

The Globe’s editorial board had called on publications across the country to speak out against Trump’s “sustained assault on the free press.”

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On Wednesday, Chain kept his gaze down as Assistant US Attorney George P. Varghese read a list of Chain’s violent threats.

“You are the enemy of the people and we are going to shoot you all.” “You are the enemy of the people. We will hunt you down and kill you and your dogs.” “We’re gonna shoot you [expletive] in the head, you Boston Globe [expletive]. We’re gonna shoot every [expletive] one of you.”

When Varghese finished, US District Judge William G. Young turned to Chain and asked “Are those things true?”

“Yes they are, your honor,” Chain said.

Chain began calling the Globe on Aug. 10 and continued until the FBI’s SWAT team arrested him Aug. 30 at his Encino, Calif., home, where they discovered 20 firearms, including a semiautomatic rifle he purchased in May 2018, records show. He is not facing charges related to the firearms.

Chain was indicted on seven counts of use of interstate and foreign commerce to transmit a threat to injure another person based on the calls to the Globe’s main newsroom telephone line. Court records include partial transcripts of his comments, which often included expletives and lewd language directed at Globe employees.

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In some calls, he made reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials.

“We’re going to kill every [expletive] one of you. Go [expletive] yourself. Call the FBI. Go get some help from [expletive] Mueller okay you [expletive],’’ he allegedly said Aug. 15. “You’re a dead man.”

On Aug. 16, the day the Globe published the coordinated editorial response, Chain vowed to murder a Globe journalist at 4 p.m. that day, according to federal court records. In response, law enforcement officers were stationed outside the Globe’s offices.

“As long as you keep attacking the president, the duly elected president of the United States, in the continuation of your treasonous and seditious acts, I will continue to threat, harass, and annoy the Boston Globe,” Chain said in an Aug. 22 call, records show.

In a statement, Jane Bowman, a Globe spokeswoman, said, “We’re pleased with the plea of guilt, remain appreciative of the law enforcement agencies that pursued justice, and will continue to closely watch the legal process play out in this case.”

Chain has not been charged with placing calls to any other organizations, but prosecutors said in court papers that Chain allegedly made similar telephone calls to New York Times columnist Bret Stephens.

Chain is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 23. He faces between 10 and 21 months in prison.Chain and his attorney declined to speak to a reporter as they left the courtroom.

At the hearing, Young spent about 45 minutes going over the plea with Chain and explaining the legal process. He asked Chain repeatedly whether he was certain he wanted to plead guilty.

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“I think it’s the best way to settle this issue, your honor,” Chain said.

Young pressed him again.

“What’s going on when you say you think this is the best way to settle it? What do you mean by that?” Young said.

Chain spoke briefly with his lawyer, William D. Weinreb.

“Pleading guilty because I am guilty, your honor,” Chain said.


John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.