On January 26, F.B.I. agents arrested John Crosby in the Internet café on the fifth floor of the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus library.
During the previous two months, National Public Radio had received a series of strange, often menacing e-mail rants via the “Contact Us” link on its Web site. But two messages that arrived the previous week were so disturbing that NPR felt compelled to alert federal authorities.
Agents were able to trace several of the e-mails to USM, and from there to an account Crosby had created when he was a student there. Crosby graduated with honors in 2009 after earning a degree in electrical engineering. He was accessing USM’s wireless network on his laptop the day agents arrived on campus to follow the lead.
Crosby was charged with two counts of “making threatening interstate communications to injure a person,” a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. He was held at the Cumberland County Jail without bail. When his father died two weeks later, Crosby was denied a request to attend the funeral. “[T]he defendant may suffer from psychiatric problems, the nature and extent of which are unknown to the United States at this time,” the government wrote in its motion to deny his release.
When agents searched Crosby’s car, a 1996 Volvo station wagon parked off campus, they found a 20 gauge shotgun and shells. Crosby had been living in the vehicle, sleeping in a parking lot near the Franklin Arterial interchange with Interstate 295. Due to a previous felony conviction for robbery, this constituted a third offense, and another reason the government deemed him too dangerous to be released.
The F.B.I. did not announce Crosby’s arrest, and NPR did not report on it until the sensationalist crime Web site The Smoking Gun broke the story in mid-March. Other national and local media outlets followed up in the coming days, many erroneously reporting that Crosby lived in Cape Elizabeth.
“My sister told me that I made the Drudge Report and The Smoking Gun and these big Web sites, and the people that were commenting on the article were saying, ‘Is he a Republican or a Democrat?’” Crosby told The Bollard in an exclusive jailhouse interview last month. “They couldn’t figure it out: shotgun-toting Volvo driver from Cape Elizabeth that hates NPR. Like a total non-sequitur.”
Crosby wants to set the record straight. “First of all, I don’t live in Cape Elizabeth. Second of all, I’m an engineer. Volvos are really safe cars; that’s my third Volvo. Third of all, the shotgun had nothing to do with the e-mails. Fourthly, Democrat or Republican? I’m definitely neither. I’m just not a totalitarian, socialist oligarchy supporter. That’s all. And NPR is deliberately and directly involved in manufacturing consent [to cover up] things that, if the citizenry knew about them, it was cause an armed revolt.”
An e-mail sent on January 17 contaioned an explicit threat to kill Melissa Block, a host of the news program “All Things Considered.” It called her “a commissar who is helping to destroy me to use me as a human sacrifice” and said she would be “raped, beaten, tortured, and murdered very soon.”
Six days later, an e-mail arrived targeting Guy Raz, the weekend host of the program. “I will remind Mr. Raz that 100 years ago a kike like him would have been hanging from a tree for disrespecting my privacy like that,” it read. “If I can make it to DC, I will try to find the kike and take care of business.”
Some of the e-mails demanded $3 million from NPR. “If you continue to portray me as anything but a victim of your power in numbers and monopoly of the airwaves then I will brutally torture and kill you,” one read, “unless you come through with my $3,000,000.00 that YOU OWE ME by any and all measures of any natural and written law of any civilized society now or in the past.”
The portrait of Crosby as a shotgun-toting, anti-Semitic psychopath did not jibe with my impression of him. I’ve known Crosby socially for about 10 years. I used to run into him at Geno’s, the Portland punk-rock club.
Crosby has struggled with drugs, holds radical political views, and is prone to get worked up about subjects like war, the economy and the environment. But he’s very intelligent, and I never considered him capable of serious violence. For example, his robbery conviction in 2002 resulted from an almost comically inept attempt to make the pharmacist at the Rite Aid on the West End give him Oxys. He fled and was apprehended after the pharmacist simply refused.
Crosby clearly crossed the line in at least two of the 30 or so e-mails he sent to NPR. And he will almost certainly spend several years in federal prison for it. He has pleaded guilty, waived his right to a trail, and is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Portland on August 12.
Crosby is 38. He is the father of twins, a son and daughter born last summer to an ex-girlfriend. He had planned to use the shotgun to kill himself, but lost the nerve, he said, and was then going to “throw it in the river,” but obviously had not done so before he was arrested.
For the record, he’s from South Portland.
— Chris Busby
What was it like growing up in South Portland?
Pretty good, actually. It wasn’t an idyllic childhood, but close to it. I was the last of 11 kids, so when we were all younger I got picked on a lot, but there’s no lasting damage from that, really.
I was sort of trained, or raised as a child to think outside the box … We listened to the Ramones and new wave and punk rock and stuff. We didn’t listen to the radio because the radio was fuckin’ stupid. We all knew it. I remember singing ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ by the Ramones to a girl in first grade. That was my way of bonding with little six-year-old girls when I was six years old — singing Ramones songs. What does that tell ya?
So you grew up in the local punk scene and started playing music?
When I was 13, yeah. My oldest brother [Donny] kind of groomed me. He started buying me Beatle boots, leather baseball caps and leather jackets, and wrap-around sunglasses and stuff when he lived in New York.
Donny used to date Bebe [Buell] … I remember going to the original Downtown Lounge when I was five and seeing Bebe’s band play, Bebe and the B-Sides. At 13, he started teaching me and my brother Gene, who was then 18, how to play guitar. After six months I learned enough chords and stuff to be able to play three-chord rock. I got good fairly quickly.
We were wicked skate punks then — flannel shirts tied around our waist, skate boards, punk rock, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag. We were right into it.
Did your political views grow out of that culture?
Definitely. Jello Biafra, Dead Kennedys, you know? You can’t own all four of the Dead Kennedys’ major albums, you can’t own the Circle Jerks’ Group Sex album, without becoming politically aware.
It definitely set the stage, [though] I wasn’t refining my political outlook. I pretty much already knew that everything was an illusion and the government was basically there as window dressing for a corporate oligarchy, and I really didn’t need to know anything more than that. I was pretty ignorant as to how things really worked, the names and numbers and everything.
I remember when me and my friend Adam went to Thailand. We got around-the-world tickets for like $2,385. This was when I was 18. We had backpacks.
The day before I left I was in a pool hall and this Thai guy came up to me and was giving me the hairy eyeball and asking me, ‘You’re American, right? How do you feel about George Bush?’ — because George Bush the First was the president at the time. I was like, ‘I don’t really have many feelings about him, really, to tell you the truth. I don’t know much about it. I’m a musician.’ And he was like, ‘That’s the problem with you Americans.’
He summarily dismissed me as a human being because I was American and because I was apathetic. That was a crystallizing moment for me in my life. It made me wake up a lot, and when I got back I had sort of a complex for months, just feeling like I hadn’t read enough. So I immediately started reading the newspaper. I didn’t know where to go. As much as I could see that the mainstream press was full of shit, I still craved to become an intellect.
Was there a point when things started going downhill?
Yeah, actually when I was overseas, I did dabble in heavy drugs for quite a while. That probably wasn’t the best decision, but at the same time, there were a lot of people around me that were doing it and they didn’t seem to have as much trouble as I did.
My brother Donny smoked weed around me when I was a kid. Him and Bebe fuckin’ toked it right up. Bebe used to toke it up around Liv [Tyler] and me back in the ’70s and early ’80s, when it wasn’t like, ‘DHS!’ — back then when people could smoke pot around their kids and they didn’t have the SWAT team come in.
When I worked at the [Portsmouth Naval] Shipyard recently, I was just a fuckin’ round peg in a square hole … [My brother Gene] said it must have been hard there, working directly for the military-industrial complex, working directly on the electronic systems that control torpedoes and Tomahawk missiles that you know are being shot over and into Iraq, and depleted uranium is spread all over the place, to the point where there’s fuckin’ hundreds of thousands of birth defects there.
The birth defects over there that are documented are fuckin’ heinous, dude: babies born inside out; babies born with the Cyclops eye, literally; babies born with another baby growing out of their mouth. Just, just things that you don’t even want to ever know exist.
I’m a human being, man. I love my two children more than anything in the world. The fact that I can’t be raising them right now, I’ve already cried about it a dozen times since I’ve been here.
It’s horrifying, especially considering that it’s 2011 and the world is fucking insane, and they need a father. They need someone to teach them and guide them through this fucking horseshit, and I’m here. It tortures me.
I want to raise them and be a conscious adult and be a responsible citizen, make them into responsible citizens that are aware — not just morons who watch sitcoms and fuckin’ poison themselves to death like most Americans do — but conscious citizens that care about the future, and their children’s future.
One out of two men gets cancer in their lifetime now, in America. One out of two. It’s growing. Pretty soon it’s going to be 100 percent. I need to teach my children how to eat, and what to eat, and how not to eat fucking disgusting poison like Slim Jims and Doritos, which is what they sell here on the commissary — junk food. I don’t want them eating that shit. I don’t want them to ever taste it. I don’t want them to know it exists.
To me, it’s like punching them in the face and then giving them a hit of crack cocaine. If you ever feed a child a McDonald’s hamburger, it’s like promising that you’re going to punch them in the face once a day for the rest of their life … ’cause then they’re gonna want that greasy, sweet, salty, disgusting fucking thing all the time. And they’re gonna beg for it like crack. They really are. I’ve seen kids do it.
What led you to clean up your act and enroll in college?
Basically, I was alienated and I kept doing drugs on and off. I was in bands and I was working and stuff, but I was struggling and I was always bouncing around from one job to another, working in restaurants, you know, and just been partying — just like everyone else around me, just like all of my friends were.
I had a particularly difficult time making happen what I wanted to happen, which was gettin’ in a good band and making it work, making all that struggling and poverty worth it. It would have been worth it if I got into a good band, got a van, toured the country a couple times. That never really happened.
And then I got cancer, in 2000, when I was 27. I got Hodgkin’s disease, and that was obviously shitty. I had a couple lumps on my neck. It was stage II, so I took six months of chemotherapy … and it cured me, more or less. But I was pretty down and out, and I was still doing a little drugs while I was going through chemotherapy. I lost a lot of weight, obviously.
I was isolated, because I was living in a rooming house with a bunch of fucking total scumbags that I had nothing in common with. They were doing coke all the time and doing pills and heroin and stuff, so I was doing that stuff every once in a great while. I was doing methadone on chemotherapy days, because that actually helped me a lot, to not be nauseous and to not puke my guts out. To just mellow me out. And I was smoking weed.
I just got depressed, man. I was like, these people obviously don’t give a fuck about me, and my life is pretty fucked, and I’m skinny, and I almost died, and the world is disgusting, you know what I mean? I almost died and all people could do is, like, give me more coke.
So finally, after reading some articles in the paper about how easy it was go into pharmacies and get OxyContin, I was like ‘hmmm.’ I decided that I was going to do it [and] I made a plan and I got my shit together and I actually did it — I tried to do it. The guy at Rite Aid called my bluff and didn’t let me leave with anything. I never planned to do anything violent.
Were you armed?
I had a knife in my pocket, and I wrote that on the note, and when he called my bluff, I didn’t want to show him the knife, but I showed him the knife. I didn’t stick it in his throat or anything, but I didn’t expect that to happen at all, because everyone that was talking about that shit in the paper was talking about how easy it was … because they have to give it to you. Basically you can go in with a note and you don’t have to be violent at all — I wouldn’t want to be, at all; I could never, probably, bring myself to stabbing somebody.
But I still got a class A felony, I still did nine months here, I still went on probation. I was either gonna kill myself or I was gonna try to make something out of my life. I was at a crossroads.
So I was like, alright, I’m gonna go to school, because everyone around me — the good people around me — keep telling me that I’m a genius and that I need to do something with my life and I need to do something with my mind before it kills me, because I’m too smart for my own good.
I go to USM. I start getting good grades right off the bat. I get invited to be a math tutor. I get right into the social situation there — I’m a math tutor doing work-study, living on a shoestring, not complaining. I go through five and a half years of that. I violated probation once for getting high … but got five scholarships while I was there, was on the dean’s list every full-time semester that I attended, which was all but two.
I did it. I succeeded well. I graduated with high honors, 3.7 out of 4, magna cum laude. One of my professors who took a particular liking to me invited me to Spain because my research was so complete and so well documented that it was a professional paper, basically, that I’d submitted to him. I published the paper in a conference in Majorca, Spain.
That’s not a small thing for an undergraduate at the University of Southern Maine. I was very proud of that, and I still am.
How did you end up working at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard?
The guy out at USM told me about a job [there]. I said, ‘Alright, I’ll send a cover letter, although I don’t really want to work directly for the military-industrial complex.’ I’m kind of a hippie. I’d rather work at the NREL, the National Renewal Energy Laboratory, working on solar cells and fuel cells and shit like that, because that’s what all my research was geared toward. Not Tomahawk missiles and submarines, and rednecks with mullets and bikers. That’s not what I was into, at all. I was into hanging out with geeks in white coats. I have that right as an American — to want to hang out with geeks in white coats.
So anyway, the economy went south, it’s 2008, the end of the world, economically, right when I’m fucking graduating. The job at the shipyard comes and everyone’s like, “Oh, you should take that, man, with the economy the way that it is, and government benefits — that’s a good job, you should take that.”
Totally bad fit for me, though. It’s like getting — I don’t know — fuckin’ “Weird Al” Yankovic to work as a secret service agent. You don’t do that.
I took the job … I didn’t get any other job offers. I was offered 52 grand a year. That’s what I expected. A good engineer makes $50,000 out of college. Sixty, seventy sometimes. In Maine, fifty-five, sixty tops. That was more money than I’d ever dreamed of. It would have been so easy for me to save so much money, because I wasn’t doing dope, I wasn’t getting high anymore. I was living like a monk. I had settled down. I was older.
I was good, other than it was a shitty job doing something that wasn’t engineering in the first place. It was fixing other people’s mistakes and using other people’s bad work … I was out of my element.
So then they canned me for nothing. I found out my ex-girlfriend was pregnant … I was pretty fucking pissed off, and pretty much was ready to bite back, you know what I mean?
Luckily I did it with words. I wasn’t planning on using violence against anybody, unless it was going to be myself. I wasn’t stupid enough to think that I could get away with doing anything remotely close to going to fucking Washington D.C. and killing somebody, you know? … I’m not stupid enough to think that that would even solve anything. All it would do is make me into a fucking raving lunatic, which just flaming someone on the Internet has done even better.
I had to leave [my] apartment because I was in New Hampshire. My car drove through this huge overflowed creek during that hurricane we had in late February of 2010 and I sucked water up into the cylinders. Ruined my car just after getting fired. Had a little bit of savings from a thrift savings plan from the government, and I was collecting unemployment, luckily … I lasted a year in that situation.
I was applying for jobs all around the United States. I applied for at least 200 jobs in a year and I got one interview. One interview. My felony convictions never came up, none of my past ever came up. I just didn’t get a job — I don’t know why. There weren’t a lot of entry-level engineering jobs on any of the job Web sites that I saw.
I got back together with my ex-girlfriend for cohabitation purposes and driving her around, because she didn’t have her license at the time … I was just looking out for her and looking out for the babies. I made diapers. I sewed my own pocket diapers — fancy, Velcro, fitted diapers. I made five of them. I had materials to make another five but the sewing machine broke.
So the babies come. They induced labor. Jack — John — Jack is four pounds. Iris is four pounds, four ounces. Jack goes right into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at the hospital. Very stressful situation with them. Each nurse at the Maine Medical Center had a different story about what we could do … He’s sitting there with gavage tubes and a machine — beep, beep, beep — just enclosed. We couldn’t even hold him.
Inwardly, I was out of my mind. Externally, to the doctors, I was professional and I spoke articulately, like I do, and was reasonable, talking about when Jack would be released and when Iris would be released. We wanted to get the family together in one room, so we could hold Jack and keep him warm and keep him company. Let him know we were there, let him know who we were.
Your relationship with the mother didn’t continue after the babies were released?
I ended up not being able to stay there anymore when the babies were about five months old. Not because she kicked me out, but because it was just too tense … So I left. I didn’t go crazy and burn down the house. I left. Just, ‘OK, I’m going to sleep in my car.’
But meanwhile, that got old, and I wasn’t getting a job still … My [unemployment] benefits ran out at the beginning of December and I was waiting for [Congress] to pass another extension. I was staying in a motel room actually, in South Portland — two hundred bucks a week — and I had to leave that motel because the fucking extension wasn’t being passed.
Just like everybody was at that time, everybody in Maine, I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I can fucking eat. Where am I gonna sleep? They have to pass this fucking unemployment extension now.’
They finally passed it. Unfortunately, when they passed it, they had this new system that they put through … Since the people in Augusta have an IQ of about 39, it took them way too long to do all that.
So between the middle of November and the time I got arrested, on January 26th, I got paid like three times. I was ready to drive up to Augusta and punch somebody in the fucking mouth, ’cause I was fucking starving. I was waiting to get my retroactive shit so I could get an apartment, pay first and security and get the fuck out of my car, and they were fucking around with unemployment so much.
That’s when you sent the e-mails?
Yeah, pretty much. NPR’s running fucking stories about how unemployment is, like, our fault because we’re not being creative. They ran this story twice about this kid who put an ad out on the CEO’s Web site, on his Facebook page or something like that, so when he opened up his page he sees, ‘Hey, I’m John Smith and I want to work for you!’ Because I wasn’t doing that, I wasn’t getting a job. I wasn’t being creative enough.
It wasn’t because they fuckin’ sent all our jobs oversees with GATT and NAFTA and FTAA, and then signing China into the World Trade Organization as a normalized trade nation, and sending literally 100 million jobs overseas. That’s not why I’m not employed. It’s because I’m not creative enough … After hearing that I was fucking seething.
A lot of people have wondered why you targeted NPR and not, say, Fox News.
Because NPR is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. NPR is supposedly the last bastion of the left media. It’s not. It’s an extremely biased source funded from some of the most evil corporate sources that are out there: ADM; Monsanto; the Gates Foundation, who are deliberately involved in eugenics and population control in Africa.
Why did you make all those anti-Semitic remarks?
I was just trying to be as fucking rude and crude as I could be to them, because I just don’t like them. I thought it might offend them a little bit. That’s all. Anything to get at them.
I’m not anti-Semitic at all. The mother of my children is a quarter Lebanese, so my children are an eighth Lebanese, and Lebanese people are of the Semitic bloodline, so my children are one-eighth Semite. I’m not anti- my twins.
You didn’t think they would take these e-mails seriously?
I sent 30 e-mails, roughly, to NPR, and they were all extremely stream-of-consciousness, just basically picking apart their propaganda. Only two of them were remotely threatening, and they were in the context of so much over-the-top, facetious, sardonic ranting that you see on every fucking blog in the world.
Do you feel sorry that people at NPR felt threatened?
I don’t believe that’s the case, Chris.
But if it was the case? Do you feel remorse?
If it was the case, definitely. I didn’t for one split second think that anyone was going to be threatened by that. The reactions that I saw in my discovery were news to me.
I really didn’t feel threatening. I felt angry the day that I wrote that particular e-mail that was construed as a threat, but no, I didn’t think that that was really going to threaten anybody and that’s in my heart of hearts, man. That’s not any kind of obfuscation to cover up my own guilt or my predicament here or to save myself.
I’m definitely paying the price — for words. This is way beyond words. My children are home alone in the world with their mother, and she’s busy. She’s helping me and sending me stuff. She’s doing all she can but she’s busy and she could use help and they could use a father. I could use some people being sane enough to realize that I’m not what they tried to say in the Portland Press Herald.
Am I sorry if Melissa Block was put in fear, or if other people at NPR were put in fear? Yes, but … that’s not even the point. The point is that I think they should be put in jail themselves. I think they should be brought before a court of law as conspirators in a conspiracy to deliberately lie to the American people about the nature of the economy, and about the nature of war, and about the nature of their food supply, and about the nature of medicine, and about the nature of all of the things that are killing everybody off very quickly, if you want the god’s honest truth.
We’re not going to be around very much longer, dude — 50, 100 years. There’s gonna be a lot of cancer and heart disease in this country very soon, a lot of disease. They know about it, but they’re not talking about it. They’re covering it up. That’s a jail-able offense in my opinion. They need to be punished.
Do they need to be killed and tortured and all that? No. So I do regret that that was taken literally. For sure. Obviously. I’m here, and I’m being prevented from doing the things that I want to do, which is to be a citizen who works and who takes care of his family. That’s all.