An Encino, CA man whose lawyers say he was a depressed, pot-smoking senior citizen who spent his days after his son's suicide watching cable news and screaming at the TV was sentenced to four months in federal prison for calling the Globe's downtown offices 14 times and threatening to rape and kill the BU interns who answered the phones and anybody else he could target with one of the many guns in his collection.
Robert Chain, 69, was also ordered to pay the Globe the $16,512 it spent to bring in security guards during Chain's telephone tirades, which culminated on Aug. 16, 2018, when Chain said he would show up at 4 p.m. and unleash hellfire to avenge his president, whom he accused the Globe of unfairly attacking in a campaign to get something done about gun violence, the US Attorney's office reports.
In a victim-witness statement, one of the interns, publicly identified only as A., said that while she reported to work that day, she was so terrified that as 4 p.m. approached, she went into a women's room and hid by climbing on a toilet:
I remember my mom texting me frantically to be careful that day. At about 3:50 p.m. I went to the bathroom with my phone. I told myself that if this was really going to happen, I might be safer where there were less people - a place where mass shooters have no interest in being. I stood on top of the toilet, making sure my feet could not be seen from under the stall door in case Mr. Chain decided to rage the women’s bathroom. I entertained myself with my phone until 4:15 p.m., when I assumed Mr. Chain would not go through with his murderous plan. Meanwhile, the rest of the Globe remained hard at work, clueless as to what could have been happening. The FBI informed the victims not to tell the other employees so the company wouldn’t be scared.
I was terrified; terrified I would never see my family again; terrified I wouldn’t be able to continue my journalism career; terrified that everything I had worked so hard for up until that point would be thrown away because of a man who believed in Trump when he said the media is the enemy of the people. I am not the enemy of the people, and neither are the thousands of other journalists around the world. I was just a 21-year-old woman doing her job.
Federal investigators quickly traced the calls, which were laced with racist, sexist and anti-Semitic rants - as well as rant-fillled calls to the New York Times - to Chain and arrested him and seized his gun collection and ammunition.
Chain pleaded guilty in May.
In a sentencing memorandum to US District Court Judge William Young, the US Attorney's office in Boston details just what Chain said in his calls and urged a sentence of ten months, arguing:
Chain’s threatening phone calls to The Globe and The New York Times were not just criminal, they were abhorrent, vicious, and menacing. Accordingly, Chain deserves to be sentenced commensurate with his crimes.
In their sentencing memorandum, Chain's lawyers acknowledged Chain did what prosecutors said, but urged Young to go easy on him both because he apologized to the Globe and the interns who had to listen to him spew and because of the circumstances of his life, which included spiraling into depression after his son's death:
Since his arrest, he has taken numerous steps to climb out of that hole and stay out of it forever. Those include taking anti-depressants, engaging in extensive therapy, quitting a daily marijuana habit, maintaining steady employment, and trying to make amends for his crime. He is a better man than he was even before his son’s death; this experience has forced him to undergo personal growth. Under the circumstances, a sentence of incarceration for this 69 year-old first-offender is not necessary to achieve the goals of punishment.
They continued that Chain's calls were not legitimate threats but the rantings of a sad old man:
Mr. Chain called the Globe several times, threatened the staff during seven of those calls, and also made vile comments to the young people who answered the phone. That, obviously, is quite serious. At the same time, Mr. Chain never intended to carry out any of his threats, and there is no evidence to the contrary. He made the phone calls in California, where he lives, and never made any plans to travel to Boston. He did not even know the Globe’s address. His threats were entirely verbal: he did not, for example, mail envelopes containing white powder, or post photos of people on the internet with crosshairs on them, or take other measures that can enhance the seriousness of a threat. And although he owned a large number of firearms, he did not purchase any in connection with this offense; many of them were antiques that he had acquired over the years. He was a collector of firearms, not a stockpiler.
Significantly, too, it is apparent from the nature of Mr. Chain’s threats that he was raving at the time he made them. These were not cold-blooded threats designed to strike fear in the heart of the listener; they were an outpouring of anger. That does not mean they were not serious; they were. But some threats are more threatening (and thus more serious) than others. Mr. Chain’s threats gave no indication that he knew the identity of any of the people he was talking to (he did not), or that he had a grudge against any of them (he did not), or that he had any kind of plan for carrying out his threats (he did not). His threats made him sound like a raving, angry older man. In short, the nature and circumstances of the offense indicate that Mr. Chain was depressed and angry and made the inexcusable decision to take it out on other people by threatening them.
He deserves to be punished for doing so, but the punishment should reflect that the seriousness of the threats was considerably less than in many other threats cases.