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Man who threatened the Globe, other papers sentenced to four months in prison

Robert D. Chain left the courthouse after sentencing, with his wife, attorney Betsy Staszek. David L. Ryan/Globe staff/Globe Staff

For more than a week in 2018, Robert D. Chain repeatedly called the Boston Globe news desk from his Encino, Calif. home and threatened to shoot and kill employees of the newspaper.

“We will hunt you down and kill you and your dogs,” Chain said in one call. “We’re gonna shoot you [expletive] in the head, you Boston Globe [expletive]. We’re gonna shoot every [expletive] one of you.”

On Wednesday, a remorseful Chain appeared in US District Court in Boston and said he never intended to hurt anyone.

“Making those phone calls was the worst decision I’ve ever made. I really can’t believe I said those things,” Chain told Judge William Young. “I just hope that those ... people can forgive me. I truly wish them nothing but the best.”

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Young sentenced Chain to four months in prison, a punishment he said was necessary to reflect the gravity of making violent threats against a pillar of US democracy.

The press can be shallow and messy, at times coddling of the rich and famous, Young told Chain.

“But they’re free,” he said. “In today’s world, where the truth is a precious commodity, done right, journalism is perhaps our last best hope of having that truth upon which this democracy depends. You attacked that.”

Chain, 69, was also ordered to pay a $3,500 fine and more than $16,500 in restitution to the Globe. Federal prosecutors had sought a 10-month prison sentence for Chain.

Chain’s calls began on Aug. 10, 2018, at the time the Globe’s editorial page was calling on other newspapers to sign onto an editorial protesting President Donald Trump’s attacks on journalists as the “enemy of the people.” In June of that year, a gunman opened fire in the newsroom of the Annapolis Gazette, killing five employees.

Chain’s threats were especially chilling in light of those circumstances, said Andres Picon, a Boston University senior who answered some of Chain’s calls.

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“The days between Mr. Chain’s first call to the Globe newsroom and his subsequent arrest were undoubtedly some of the most frightening in my life,” Picon told Young in a victim impact statement. “I had no idea whether Mr. Chain’s threats were credible. In a time when members of the media are constantly being attacked for doing their jobs … it seemed anything was possible.”

Chain had also threatened reporters at the New York Times, leaving messages filled with racial slurs and threats.

The FBI traced the calls to Chain’s home. On Aug. 30, 2018, 12 days after the first calls were made to the Globe, agents searched Chain’s house and found 19 firearms, including a shotgun and semiautomatic handguns, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Assistant US Attorney George Varghese said Chain carried out a “campaign of terror against the Boston Globe newsroom.” On one call, he threatened to shoot Globe employees in the head later that day.

“That threat alone caused panic in the newsroom,” Varghese said.

In May, Chain pleaded guilty to seven counts of using interstate and foreign commerce to transmit a threat to injure another person.

Chain’s lawyers attributed his actions in large part to serious mental health problems that began in 2012 when his 25-year-old son committed suicide. Chain sank into a deep depression, withdrew from his friends and neighbors, and began watching cable news, said William Weinreb, one of Chain’s lawyers.

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After his arrest, Chain began attending anger management classes, stopped smoking marijuana, and began seeing a therapist four times a week, Weinreb said. He asked that Chain be sentenced to six months home detention and two years of supervised release.

Chain declined to comment to reporters after the hearing. His wife, son, daughter in law and grandson, a toddler, attended the sentencing.

Weinreb said Chain was “grateful” for the chance to apologize again for his actions. He said Chain’s calls were “absolutely not” a threat against the press.

“It was an expression of pain and anger,” Weinreb said. “He’s looking forward to putting this behind him and leading a better life.”


Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. . Follow her on Twitter @globemcramer.