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St. Louis man arrested for making threats against Jewish Community Centers

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Juan Thompson/Photo: CNN

ST. LOUIS — A former reporter for the left leaning site, The Intercept, who was fired for fabricating sources was arrested Friday and accused of making some of the bomb threats against Jewish institutions that have so rattled Jews recently.

Juan Thompson, 31, was charged with one count of cyber-stalking for making at least eight threats as part of an attempt to intimidate a particular person after their romantic relationship ended, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York.

The accusation against Thompson accounts for just a small minority of the 101 total bomb threats that have been received by Jewish institutions since 2017 began, according to data from the JCC Association of North America.

“No one has been arrested for making the nationwide robocall JCC threats,” New York State Police’s Beau Duffy said. “That’s still an active FBI investigation.”

The complaint alleges Thompson had emailed and phoned in threats to the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish institutions. Some of those threats mentioned a “Jewish Newtown,” according to the complaint, an apparent reference to the infamous 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Thompson made some of the threats in the victim’s name, while others were made in his own name, according to the complaint.

Thompson then claimed that those threats had actually been made by the victim in an attempt to frame him, the complaint alleges.

It could not be immediately determined if Thompson has an attorney.

Jewish community centers and schools have been the targets of a series of bomb threats made via telephone since 2017 began, sparking fears of rising anti-Semitism around the country.

Thompson’s arrest, in St. Louis, was the result of the ongoing investigation into those bomb threats, officials said.

“Thompson’s alleged pattern of harassment not only involved the defamation of his female victim, but his threats intimidated an entire community,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement.

Thompson is the same individual who previously worked as a reporter for The Intercept, the online news publication, according to previous CNN reporting and a review of Thompson’s Twitter account.

Several tweets from his Twitter account, @JuanMThompson, are referenced in the criminal complaint.

That Twitter account is linked to articles bearing his byline at The Intercept.

Thompson was fired from the website in 2016 for fabricating quotes, The Intercept’s editor-in-chief wrote at the time in a special note to readers. He had worked there from November 2014 until January 2016.

In one story, Thompson quoted a man he identified as the cousin of Dylann Roof, the man convicted of killing nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Intercept editors retracted that story after members of Roof’s family said they did not know of that cousin.

Thompson accused The Intercept of firing him for being black, something the site said was not true.

This is a press release from the US Attorney’s office:

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) and James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced the unsealing of a complaint charging JUAN THOMPSON with cyberstalking a particular woman (“Victim-1”), by, among other things, communicating threats to Jewish Community Centers (“JCCs”) in Victim-1’s name. THOMPSON was arrested in St. Louis, Missouri, this morning and is expected to be presented there later today.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Everyone deserves to be free from fear and discrimination based on religion, race, or ethnicity; that is fundamental to who we are as a nation. Together with the FBI and the NYPD, we have been investigating the recent threats made on Jewish Community Centers in New York and around the country. Today, we have charged Juan Thompson with allegedly stalking a former romantic interest by, among other things, making bomb threats in her name to Jewish Community Centers and to the Anti-Defamation League. Threats of violence targeting people and places based on religion or race – whatever the motivation – are unacceptable, un-American, and criminal. We are committed to pursuing and prosecuting those who foment fear and hate through such criminal threats.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Thompson’s alleged pattern of harassment not only involved the defamation of his female victim, but his threats intimidated an entire community. The FBI and our partners take these crimes seriously. I would also like to thank the NYPD and the New York State Police, who continue to work shoulder to shoulder with us as we investigate and track down every single threat and work together to achieve justice for our communities that have been victimized by these threats.”

Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said: “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. I’m grateful for the collaboration between the NYPD detectives, FBI agents, and prosecutors whose cross-country investigation led to this morning’s arrest.”

According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:

In recent months, the FBI and this Office have been investigating a series of threats across the country principally targeting JCCs, schools, and other organizations that provide service to and on behalf of the Jewish community (the “JCC Threats”). Based on the investigation, THOMPSON appears to have made at least eight of the JCC Threats as part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimidate Victim-1. THOMPSON’s harassment of Victim-1 appears to have begun shortly after their romantic relationship ended and to have included, among other things, defamatory emails and faxes to Victim-1’s employer, false reports of criminal activity by Victim-1, and JCC Threats in Victim-1’s name.

In July 2016, an email was sent to Victim-1’s employer that made false allegations about Victim-1, including that she had broken the law, using an internet protocol (“IP”) address that THOMPSON had previously used to access his social media account. On October 15, 2016, an IP address that traced back to THOMPSON’s residence was used to report falsely that Victim-1 possessed child pornography. When confronted by law enforcement on November 22, 2016, THOMPSON claimed that his email account had been hacked a few weeks earlier.

In January and February 2017, THOMPSON appears to have made at least eight JCC Threats as part of his campaign of harassment against Victim-1. For instance, on or about February 21, 2017, the Anti-Defamation League (“ADL”) received an emailed threat at their midtown Manhattan office, which indicated that “[Victim-1’s name and birthdate] is behind the bomb threats against jews. She lives in nyc and is making more bomb threats tomorrow.” The next day, the ADL received a phone call claiming that explosive material had been placed in the ADL’s midtown Manhattan office.

Some of THOMPSON’s JCC Threats appear to have been made in his own name, as part of an effort to claim that Victim-1 was trying to frame THOMPSON for a crime. For instance, on or about February 7, 2017, a JCC in Manhattan received an emailed bomb threat from an anonymous email account, which stated: “Juan Thompson [THOMPSON’s birthday] put two bombs in the office of the Jewish center today. He wants to create Jewish newtown tomorrow.” The email’s use of the phrase “Jewish newtown” appeared to refer to a December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a gunman murdered 26 victims, including 20 children.

In February 2017, a Twitter account that appears to be used by THOMPSON (the “Thompson Twitter Account”) was used to accuse Victim-1 of responsibility for the JCC Threats and claim that Victim-1 was trying to frame THOMPSON for her crimes. For instance, on February 24, 2017, the Thompson Twitter Account posted: “[s]he [Victim-1], though I can’t prove it, even sent a bomb threat in my name to a Jewish center, which was odd given her antisemitic statements. I got a visit from the FBI. So now I’m battling the racist FBI and this vile, evil, racist white woman.” On February 26, 2017, the Thompson Twitter Account posted “The hatred of Jews goes across all demos. Ask NYC’s [Victim-1’s employer]. They employ a filthy anti-Semite in [Victim-1]. These ppl are evil.”

* * *

THOMPSON, 31, of Saint Louis, Missouri, is charged with one count of cyberstalking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and the New York City Police Department, as well as the United States Secret Service, the St. Louis Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, and the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the United States Department of Justice for their ongoing investigative assistance. This investigation, as well as investigations into the other threats made to the Jewish community organizations in New York City are ongoing.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism & International Narcotics Unit and the General Crimes Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Warren is in charge of the prosecution.