Former journalist Juan Thompson, who was fired from The Intercept after he was found to have fabricated stories, has been arrested for some of the bomb threats that have targeted Jewish community centers across the United States.
Thompson, 31, was arrested in St. Louis, Missouri, on Friday morning after being charged with cyberstalking for an alleged months-long campaign of harassment that targeted his ex-girlfriend and attempted to frame her for bomb threats and child pornography.
Investigators say Thompson is responsible for at least 8 threats that were made against Jewish facilities over the past few months, but they do not believe he is behind all of the more than 100 bomb threats that have targeted Jewish community centers and schools across the U.S.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed on Friday, Thompson’s campaign of harassment began in July 2016 after he and a woman in New York City ended their relationship.
It started with an email that was sent to the woman’s employer and claimed to be from a producer at a national news organization. The email claimed that the woman had been pulled over for driving under the influence and that she was being sued for spreading a sexually transmitted disease.
Over the next several weeks, the woman received text messages and emails from a person who claimed to be a relative of Thompson, telling her that Thompson had been the victim of a shooting and would be taken off of life support. But Thompson had not been the victim of a shooting.
In other messages over the next few months, Thompson allegedly threatened to release nude photos of his ex-girlfriend and sent emails and faxes to the woman’s co-workers to accuse her of making death threats and anti-Semitic remarks. Some of the emails contained photos of the victim.
Then, on October 15, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received an anonymous message that accused the woman of possessing child pornography. “I was at a disco-tech two weeks ago and met [the woman] who said she watched child porn. I thought she was joking until she showed me two pictures, on her phone, of a child engaged in sex acts,” it said.
Police investigated the tip and traced the message back to Thompson’s home, after which a detective called him to ask if he thought his ex-girlfriend was in possession of child pornography. Thompson said he did not think so and told the detective that his email account had been hacked.
Then, in late January, Thompson is accused of having initiated a series of threats against Jewish community centers, some of which were made in his name while others were made in the name of his ex-girlfriend. Threats were made to locations in New York, Texas, California, and Michigan.
While allegedly making the threats, Thompson took to Twitter to proclaim his innocence and to express his support for the Jewish community. “Another week, another round of threats against Jewish ppl. In the middle of the day, you know who’s at a JCC? Kids. KIDS,” he wrote on February 27.
Days earlier, Thompson posted a public message to accuse his ex-girlfriend of trying to frame him for a bomb threat.
“Two years ago, after swearing off white women, I started dating one named [redacted]. She seemed like a cool Brooklyn white radical,” he wrote. “We broke up after someone showed me the light, and since then she’s stalked and harassed me. Threatened to have me killed, and said she was going to make me a prison ‘statistic’ and looked forward to me being ‘raped’ in prison.”
Thompson added: “She, 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. I’m afraid. We know what happens when white women use the law to go after black men.”
Thompson previously worked as a reporter for The Intercept news website from November 2014 until January 2016, when he was fired after it was revealed that he had fabricated quotes and stories. Most notably, he claimed to have interviewed Scott Roof, a supposed cousin of South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof.
The story quoted Scott as saying that Dylann “was normal until he started listening to that white power music stuff” and that he “kind of went over the edge when a girl he liked started dating a black guy two years back.” The story was picked up by other news organizations before it was revealed that Dylann has no cousin by that name.
The Intercept said it launched an investigation and discovered “a pattern of deception”, after which Thompson was fired. “Thompson went to great lengths to deceive his editors, creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods,” Intercept Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed said in February 2016.
Responding to Friday’s news, The Intercept said it was “horrified” to learn of Thompson’s arrest. “These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted,” the website said in a brief statement.
If convicted of cyberstalking, Thompson faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
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