PORTLAND, Maine — A Cape Elizabeth man is being held on federal charges that he used computers in Portland when he threatened to torture and kill National Public Radio hosts Melissa Block and Guy Raz.
Because e-mails allegedly sent by John Crosby to NPR’s website crossed state lines, Crosby faces two counts of Class D transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce, each of which carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, according to documents on file in U.S. District Court in Portland.
According to an affidavit written by Nathan Jacobs, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crosby used the “Contact Us” function on NPR’s website to make multiple threats against Block and Raz, who host the NPR programs “All Things Considered” and “Weekend All Things Considered,” respectively.
Crosby’s obscenity-laden messages threatened various acts of violence against Block because, among other reasons, “she is a commissar who is helping to destroy me and use me as human sacrifice,” according to a message allegedly sent by Crosby on Jan. 17, according to the affidavit. That e-mail was sent from a Starbucks on Congress Street in Portland.
NPR told the FBI that it had received at least two similar e-mails in November and December 2010 from a person using a similar name that included the racial epithet “kike.” Jacobs traced the origin of those e-mails and others sent in January to an Internet address associated with the University of Southern Maine.
Jacobs wrote that NPR received at least a dozen threatening communications — against Block, Raz and NPR in general — from that address between Jan. 23 and Jan. 26. Some of the messages demanded money.
“I will brutally torture and kill all of you … unless you come through with my $3,000,000 that YOU OWE ME by any and all measures of any natural and written law of any civilized society now or of the past,” read an e-mail from the USM account, according to the affidavit.
Jacobs and another agent learned that Crosby had graduated from USM in 2009 and that he was still using his student e-mail address, often from the school’s Glickman Library. In fact, Crosby was using a computer in the library on Jan. 26 when Jacobs and two other FBI agents were at the school investigating the case. Special Agent Christopher Peavey approached Crosby from behind.
“John Crosby? I haven’t seen you in a while,” said the agent, according to the affidavit.
“Yeah, that’s me,” said Crosby, extending his hand. The agents placed Crosby under arrest and seized his computer.
“I have been trying to get your attention for a while,” Crosby allegedly told the agents before asking them if they had been reading his e-mails.
On Feb. 23, Crosby was indicted by a federal grand jury on the two charges of sending threatening messages and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. The latter charge, which could result in a 10-year prison sentence, stemmed from the FBI agents’ discovery of a 20-gauge shotgun and shotgun shells in Crosby’s vehicle.
Crosby is barred from owning weapons because of previous felony convictions in Cumberland County for robbery in 2002 and possession of heroin in 1998, according to court documents.
Crosby’s Portland-based attorney, John Geary, told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday that he couldn’t answer questions about the case because the court process is ongoing. He said Crosby is being held in Cumberland County Jail and at present has no court date scheduled.
On Tuesday, Geary asked the court in writing to release Crosby temporarily so he can attend a family member’s memorial service next week. U.S. Attorney Thomas Delahanty II argued against it in a filing dated Wednesday.
“He has been charged with threatening to travel to Washington, D.C., where the subjects of his threats are located, to ‘take care of business,’” wrote Delahanty in his opposing motion. “These threats were made shortly before the defendant’s arrest, and shortly before the Federal Bureau of Investigation found a shotgun and shotgun shells in the defendant’s vehicle. In addition, the threatening communications with which the defendant has been charged indicate that the defendant may suffer from psychiatric problems, the nature of which are unknown to the United States at this time.”