Former journalist arrested, charged with threats against Jewish facilities
Mark Berman, Matt Zapotosky, WaPo, Mar 3 2017
Authorities investigating recent bomb threats against Jewish institutions nationwide arrested a former journalist Friday morning and said he was behind at least some of the threats, describing them as part of the man’s campaign to harass a woman. The arrest in St Louis appears to be the first made in response to a recent wave of bomb threats at Jewish centers and schools across the country in recent days. Headstones also have been vandalized at Jewish cemeteries in Missouri, Pennsylvania and, most recently, upstate New York. But officials said Friday that they don’t believe the man, Juan Thompson, 31, was behind all of the calls or the vandalism. The bomb threats against Jewish centers and schools in January and February, including another string of such calls on Monday that evacuated schools in Maryland and Virginia among other places, brought the total number of incidents to 100 across dozens of states, according to the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Association of North America. The FBI arrested Thompson on Friday morning in St Louis, according to the Federal Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. Thompson is a journalist who was fired from the Intercept, an investigative journalism website, for fabricating quotes and misleading colleagues to cover his tracks. In an editor’s note last year, the publication said Thompson had engaged in “a pattern of deception” and wrote that he created fake email accounts to impersonate people. Charlotte Greensit, the Intercept’s managing editor, said in a statement Friday:
We were horrified to learn this morning that Juan Thompson, a former employee of The Intercept, has been arrested in connection with bomb threats against the ADL and multiple JCCs in addition to cyber-stalking. These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted. Thompson worked at the Intercept from Nov 2014 until he was fired in Jan 2016.
An FBI spox said Thompson is not believed to be responsible for all the threats to JCCs across the country. Thompson was arrested in St Louis, not far from a Jewish cemetery where 150 headstones were recently vandalized, but the spox said he is not believed to be responsible for that incident. Thompson was charged with cyber-stalking for allegedly communicating at least eight threats to JCCs as part of a sustained campaign of harassment targeting a woman. Thompson is expected to appear in court Friday. According to the complaint, after their relationship ended, he began sending defamatory emails and faxes to the workplace of his ex-girlfriend, making false reports that she was involved in criminal activity and making threats to the JCCs in her name. Last year, speaking to the Riverfront Times, an alt-weekly in St Louis, Thompson disputed the Intercept’s characterization of his firing and said he would “come through on this.” The story said Thompson acted cagey when asked for evidence of claims about having cancer and being accepted to law school.
The Intercept’s account of Thompson’s fabrications is echoed in the criminal complaint filed Friday. The complaint says that after he and the woman he dated broke up in Jul 2016, Thompson began emailing and faxing her company defamatory emails about her. In one, for example, a person claiming to be a TV producer for a national news organization said the woman had been pulled over for drunk driving and was being sued for spreading an STD. The woman herself also received a series of bizarre texts and emails related to Thompson from someone claiming to be his friend. One said falsely that Thompson had been the victim of a robbery and shooting, and was on life support. The woman obtained a protective order against Thompson in Aug 2016 and renewed it in October and December. Law enforcement confronted Thompson in Nov 2016, after someone from his IP address reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that the woman possessed child pornography. A NYPD detective eventually got in touch with Thompson, who claimed his email accounts were hacked, and told him he should not attempt to contact the victim. In the months that followed, Thompson began making threats to Jewish Community Centers, sometimes in the woman’s name and sometimes in his own, though he claimed the woman was trying to frame him, according to authorities.
Thompson seemed to be aware of the news coverage of threats. Using an apparently hacked email address, he sent a message to the ADL in Feb 2017 saying the woman was “behind the bomb threats against jews. She lives in nyc and is making more bomb threats tomorrow.” The next day, the ADL received a call that said someone would detonate an explosive at the group’s New York headquarters. Police searched and did not find a bomb. Similar threats were relayed in various ways toward JCCs in Dallas and San Diego, a Jewish school in Michigan and the Jewish History Museum in Manhattan. A Jewish school in Manhattan received two separate threats, one of which said Thompson wanted “to create Jewish newtown tomorrow,” a reference to the mass shooting of 20 children at a school in Newtown, Conn. Thompson claimed on Twitter that the woman was stalking and harassing him, and that law enforcement had questioned him unfairly because of her. He also tweeted about the threats, seeming to condemn them
The criminal complaint filed in federal court points to his Twitter page, where he rails about an ex-girlfriend he describes as a “nasty/racist #whitegirl.”
Thompson’s page also expresses disdain for Pres Trump and white people generally. In a tweet about the Oscars, he praised Black women for their opposition to Trump:
White folk are trash. The only person to call Trump a fascist in the #dncdebate is a Black woman. Of course. Black women are the root of left mvmnts.
ADL leaders said Friday that law enforcement officials informed them that the arrest was made in the case of a bomb threat against its offices as well as “several other” facilities. The NYPD confirmed that an arrest was made and referred further questions to the FBI. NYPD commissioner James O’Neill said in a statement:
The defendant allegedly caused havoc, expending hundreds of hours of police and law enforcement resources to respond and investigate these threats. We will continue to pursue those who peddle fear, making false claims about serious crimes.