LOS ANGELES (CN) – A California man who made a series of calls to the offices of The Boston Globe threatening to kill journalists was ordered released on bond by a federal judge Thursday despite the objections of prosecutors who painted him as a danger to his community.
While waiting to be called before Magistrate Judge Paul Abrams, 68-year-old Robert Chain sat in a chair flanked by U.S marshalls, arms crossed and repeatedly tilting his head down into his hands.
His long black hair, magenta-colored at the edges, draped over his turquoise shirt. A push broom mustache animated his tired expression.
Federal agents arrested Chain at his home early Thursday morning where they also confiscated over 20 firearms – including a shotgun behind the front door and handguns stuffed in sock drawers – and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, prosecutors said Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles.
Prosecutor Matt Rosenbaum said that there is nothing illegal about Chain possessing the large stock of firearms and ammunition, but argued that he should remain in custody when his threats to Globe reporters are considered in combination with his gun supply.
Rosenbaum also said Chain has a home in Wyoming and has international connections after retiring from a career in trade.
Judge Abrams asked Rosenbaum if federal agents found any evidence in Chain’s home that demonstrate plans to travel to Boston.
“No, but the fact the threat was not carried out should not be credited to the defendant,” Rosenbaum said, adding that Chain lied in his initial interview with federal agents when he said he only owned 10 guns.
Chain’s public defense attorney Andre Townsend said agents found no evidence of intent to travel to Boston or anywhere internationally.
Rosenbaum said Chain could still drive his weapons to Boston to carry out an attack.
“The theoretical threat from guns can be mitigated” if Chain surrenders his firearms and ammunition to federal agents, Townsend said.
Townsend also said Chain has no criminal record and hasn’t traveled out of the country since the 1980s.
Abrams said there was not enough evidence to show Chain posed a flight risk and ordered him released on $50,000 bail.
As a condition of his release, Chain must surrender his passport by Friday, register for pretrial supervision and submit to drug and mental health testing.
He must appear in federal court in Boston before Sept. 24.
Chain is barred from possessing firearms for the duration of the proceedings and is restricted from contacting any Globe employees or being within 500 feet of the newsroom.
Abrams allowed Chain to travel for a pre-planned family trip to Wyoming between Sept. 13 and 20, but said that he must clear the trip with U.S Marshals and pretrial authorities and also remove all firearms from his home there.
Chain looked down at the floor as he nodded in agreement with the terms of his release.
Before adjournment, Rosenbaum requested a stay in the case in order to seek an appeal of the release order.
Abrams paused for a moment before denying the stay, adding that another judge, perhaps in Boston, could issue a warrant for Chain’s arrest “if detention is deemed necessary.”
According to court documents filed Wednesday in federal court in Boston, Chain made 14 threatening phone calls to the Globe’s newsroom between Aug. 10 and 22 in retaliation for the paper’s request that news media outlets condemn President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press.
Chain, who resides in Encino, California, referred to the Globe as “the enemy of the people” and threatened to kill reporters, the federal complaint said.
On Aug. 16, the day the Globe published its coordinated editorial response to Trump’s attacks on the press, Chain called the newsroom and threatened to shoot Globe employees in the head “later today, at 4 o’clock.”
Local law enforcement responded to the threat by maintaining a police presence outside the Globe’s offices.
Chain is charged with making threatening communications in interstate commerce which could result in a sentence of up to five years, one year of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.