A former journalist charged in connection with several bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as part of an alleged revenge scheme against a romantic partner has pleaded not guilty to cyberstalking in New York federal court.
Juan Thompson, 31, was arrested in St. Louis on March 3 for allegedly phoning in eight threats in the woman’s name to the ADL and JCCs around the US. Authorities extradited him to New York City where he is being held without bail.
A prosecutor for the US government said that FBI agents recovered 25 electronic devices — including laptops, tablets, and cell phones — during a search of Thompson's residence.
Thompson worked at The Intercept from November 2014 until January 2016. He was fired after he was found to have fabricated a story about Dylann Roof and to have created fake email accounts to impersonate other people. The Intercept was forced to issue corrections on multiple articles by Thompson after the veracity of his sourcing and quotes were called into question.
After his March arrest, the editor-in-chief of The Intercept, Betsy Reed, told BuzzFeed News that the publication has not been in touch with Thompson since he was fired. In a statement, The Intercept said they were “horrified” to learn that Thompson had been arrested. “These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted,” the statement said.
The federal complaint against Thompson alleges that between July 2016 through March 2017 he sent emails and other forms of electronic communication to “engage in a course of conduct that placed that person in reasonable fear of the death of and serious bodily injury to that person.”
“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 Sweeney Jr. said in a statement announcing the charges.
Authorities described Thompson’s alleged threats as part of a “campaign of harassment” against the woman, identified as a social worker in New York City.
The complaint chronicles a series of correspondences between Thompson and the woman, and between him and the woman’s employer.
Included in the messages were claims about the woman’s sexual health, threats she’d purportedly directed at various JCCs, threats she’d allegedly made to his life, and photos of her.
According to the complaint, on July 27, 2016 — one day after Thompson and the woman allegedly ended their relationship — the executive director of the organization where the woman works received an email indicating that she had been pulled over for a DUI and was being sued for spreading sexually transmitted diseases.
Over the next several weeks, the woman received several emails and text messages from someone who claimed to be Thompson’s close friend or relative.
The sender made a variety of claims about Thompson, including that he was not responsible for the harassment she faced; that Thompson had sent her money to compensate for hurting her; and that he had been the victim of a robbery and shooting, faced critical injuries, and would soon be taken off life-support.
An investigator on the case noted in the complaint that Thompson had not, in fact, been the victim of a shooting.
The woman took out an order for protection against Thompson in August 2016. During that time, Thompson allegedly told her that his computer had been hacked by someone in Africa.
The woman’s employer was contacted several times via email with messages stating that she had sexually transmitted diseases. The company also received a fax on one occasion claiming that the woman was anti-Semitic, along with anti-Semitic statements she had purportedly written. Photos of the victim were sent to the company through both mediums during that period.
On Oct. 5, the company’s human resources manager received an email alleging that the woman had threatened to kill Thompson.
Ten days later, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received an anonymous message, later traced to Thompson’s email address, in which the sender stated that they had met the woman at a club and that she said she watched child pornography.
“I thought she was joking until she showed me two pictures, on her phone, of a child engaged in sex acts,” the message read.
An NYPD detective called Thompson one month later to discuss the message and spoke with someone claiming to be him. The person told the detective that he did not believe the woman watched child pornography, and claimed that his email account had been hacked the previous week.
Eventually, Thompson began allegedly sending bomb threats to various JCCs and the AFL in his name as well as the woman’s.
Between Jan. 28 and Feb. 7, several JCCs in New York City and Michigan received bomb threats via email that were attributed to Thompson.
And on Feb. 24, 26, and 27, Thompson tweeted about needing a lawyer “to stop this nasty/racist #whitegirl I dated who sent a bomb threat in my name.” He also claimed that the woman was anti-Semitic, and made comments about the recent bomb threats at JCCs.
Authorities believe Thompson tweeted to support a claim that the woman was trying to frame him.
On or around Feb. 20, the complaint states, a JCC in San Diego received an email from Thompson’s account alleging that the woman “hates Jewish people and is the head of a run and put a bomb in the center” of the JCC “to kill as many Jews asap.”
The ADL received an email on Feb. 21 indicating that the woman was “behind the bomb threats against jews [sic]. She lives in nyc [sic] and is making more bomb threats tomorrow.”
The same day, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) allegedly received an email from an anonymous account stating that the woman had “put a bomb in the Jewish center in Dallas.”
There have been more than 100 anti-Semitic threats made to JCCs in the US and Canada so far this year.
Two weeks after Thompson was arrested, a 19-year-old Israeli-American teenager was arrested at his Israel home in connection with many of the bomb threats to Jewish centers and schools around the US since the start of 2017.
The unidentified man is suspected of threats targeting the US, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand over the past six months.
Along with threats to Jewish centers, he is suspected in a 2015 threat to JFK airport where Delta Airlines flights were grounded after the suspect claimed there were explosives around and inside the airport.
Thompson’s case has no connection to the case in Israel, authorities said.
Michael Hayes is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Mike Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.