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Maine man who threatened NPR hosts sentenced to 46 months

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Maine man who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from threats to rape, torture and kill hosts of a popular National Public Radio program was sentenced on Friday to 46 months in prison, authorities said.

John Crosby, formerly of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, threatened Melissa Block and Guy Raz, hosts of "All Things Considered," in Washington in January, according to authorities.

U.S. District Court Judge George Singal sentenced Crosby to 46 months in prison, the maximum penalty based on federal guidelines, and three years of supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Maine.

United States Attorney Thomas Delahanty said it was important public figures be able to present the news and their views without fear of threats or intimidation.

"The threats in this case were very personal and infringed on the news organization's ability to present the news freely," his office said in a statement.

NPR issued a statement that expressed its satisfaction with the punishment.

"We are relieved that this situation has been resolved, and believe the sentence was appropriate. As always, we are committed to vigorously protecting our staff," it said.

In an April court appearance, Crosby pleaded guilty to federal charges of sending threatening communications in interstate commerce and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Crosby, 38, contacted the two NPR hosts via the Internet from Portland, Maine, in January, according to court records.

In messages to the radio hosts, he threatened to rape, beat, torture and kill Block, and he applied an ethnic slur to Raz and threatened his life, authorities said.

When Crosby was arrested in Portland on January 26, investigators found a shotgun in his car. Because Crosby was previously convicted of state robbery and heroin possession felonies, he had been barred from having firearms, officials said.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper and Zach Howard; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)