A California man charged with threatening to kill employees of The Boston Globe had 20 guns in his home when it was searched, federal officials said Thursday.
Robert Chain, 68, from Encino, allegedly made 14 threatening phone calls to the paper from Aug. 10 through Aug. 22, at one point telling the paper that it was "the enemy of the people." He is charged with one count of making threatening communications in interstate commerce.
In federal court in Los Angeles Thursday, Chain heard a reading of the allegations and told Judge Paul L. Abrams he understood them. He was freed on $50,000 bond and ordered to stay away from guns and from the Boston Globe.
Chain purchased a 9 mm carbine rifle in May, according to the criminal complaint. Prosecutors said in court that authorities who searched his home found firearms everywhere, including by the front door, where a shotgun with shells was discovered.
"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," Andrew Lelling, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said in a statement.
Chain was expected to face federal allegations in Boston by Sept. 24. The judge said the U.S. Attorney's Office there continues to investigate.
In downtown Los Angeles, he appeared haggard in a bright blue T-shirt — with the tips of his hair died purple — as he stood beside public defender Andre Townsend.
Outside court, his wife of 42 years, Betty Chain, faced reporters but declined to say whether she was aware of the alleged threats. She called reporters "zombies" and then clarified that description.
"Oh you people are pathetic," she said. "You wanna quote me calling you zombies no problem. You walked into my yard like the night of the living dead."
Some of Robert Chain's alleged calls were recorded, according to the FBI. On the day The Boston Globe published a coordinated editorial response with other newspapers around the country to attacks on the press and in defense of the First Amendment, Chain is accused of calling them and threatening to kill newspaper employees.
"You're the enemy of the people, and we're going to kill every f------ one of you," the caller said. "Hey, why don't you call the F, why don't you call Mueller, maybe he can help you out, buddy."
In response, local law enforcement maintained a presence outside the Globe's offices, according to the statement.
Hank Shaw, in charge of the FBI's Boston office, said in the statement, "All threats are taken seriously, as we never know if the subject behind the threat intends to follow through with their actions."
"Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but threatening to kill people, takes it over the line and will not be tolerated," he said.
The FBI said that even though Chain blocked his caller ID, they were able to trace the calls to his address in California and used public databases to confirm that he lived there. In addition, Chain made two calls from his cellphone that were unblocked.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly lashed out against the press and called the news media an "enemy of the people," using the phrase as recently as Thursday on Twitter.
Chain faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if convicted.
The Boston Globe thanked law enforcement in a statement.
"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," a newspaper spokesperson said.