A 31-year-old disgraced journalist has been arrested in connection with eight bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers and organizations across the country, federal authorities say.
Juan Thompson, of Missouri, is accused of making the threats as part of an extensive cyber-stalking “campaign” against his ex-girlfriend to “harass and intimidate” her, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced on March 3.
Thompson was fired by The Intercept last February after he was accused of fabricating sources in a story about the Charleston church shooting.
The FBI has been investigating more than 100 bomb threats made to Jewish Community Centers, schools and the Anti-Defamation League, along with other Jewish organizations, since early January. There have been at least five waves of attacks, with multiple threats coming on the same day.
Police do not believe Thompson is the main suspect behind the majority of the threats, ABC News reports. Police sources told ABC News that Thompson appears to have taken advantage of national news coverage of the threats to continue his ongoing harassment against his ex-girlfriend in revenge for her breaking up with him.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. During 2 Threats, Thompson Claimed There Were Bombs in a Middle School & There Was Going to be a ‘Jewish Newtown’
In the complaint against Thompson, the FBI said he made at least eight threats against Jewish organizations. Some where made in his ex-girlfriend’s name, and others were made in Thompson’s name. He later claimed that those made in his name were part of his ex-girlfriend’s plot to have him arrested, according to court documents.
However, many more threats than that have been made since January. Threat have been made against JCCs in at least 17 states. This means that there may have been other, unrelated people also making many of the bomb threats. Thompson’s arrest only represents a small portion of those threats.
ABC News reports the investigation into the majority of the threats is ongoing and Thompson is not the main suspect.
The court document said that in one of the threats, made on February 1 against a Jewish school in Farmington Hills, the caller said he placed two bombs in the school and was “eager for Jewish newtown.” This was likely a reference to the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where six school employees and 20 students were killed. A similar reference to Newtown was made in a threatening call to a Jewish school in Manhattan.
You can read the complaint below or by clicking here.
According to a press release, Juan Thompson was charged with one count of cyberstalking, which can bring a maximum of five years in prison. The threats he made in the woman’s name were part of a cyberstalking campaign against her, the FBI said.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “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.”
In the complaint against Thompson, FBI special agent Christopher Mils said: “Based on the FBI’s investigation, Juan Thompson, the defendant, appears to have made some 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.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney 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.”
New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said, “We will continue to pursue those who peddle fear, making false claims about serious crimes. As alleged, the defendant caused havoc, expending hundreds of hours of police and law enforcement resources to respond to and investigate these threats. I’m grateful for the collaboration between the NYPD detectives, FBI agents, and prosecutors whose cross-country investigation led to this morning’s arrest.”
Thompson was taken into custody in Missouri and is expected to appear in court there on March 3 for the first time.
2. Thompson Is Also Accused of Sending Nude Photographs of His Ex-Girlfriend to Her Boss
Thompson also sent several emails to his ex-girlfriend’s boss during his harassment “campaign,” the FBI says in court documents. The emails included nude photographs of her and fake news stories saying she had been arrested and was being sued for spreading a sexually transmitted disease, according to court documents.
Those emails began to arrive in July 2016, shortly after Thompson’s ex-girlfriend broke up with him, the FBI says. They dated from 2015 to 2016.
Thompson also sent his ex-girlfriend text messages, claiming to be one of his friends, saying Thompson was not responsible for the harassment toward her. The FBI says she also received text messages saying Thompson had been robbed and shot, was dying of his injuries and would be taken off life support. Investigators found he was never the victim of the shooting.
His ex-girlfriend obtained a restraining order against him in New York.
She is represented by attorney Carrie Goldberg, who was profiled in the New Yorker recently for her fight against revenge porn and harassment.
3. He Said on Twitter a ‘Nasty/Racist #WhiteGirl’ He Dated ‘Sent a Bomb Threat in My Name & Wants Me to be Raped in Jail’
Meanwhile, Juan Thompson has a Twitter account where he claims his ex-girlfriend sent a bomb threat in his name. He tweeted a number of messages, including a mention that he disagreed with the bomb threats. The FBI complaint against Thompson mentions some of these tweets.
Thompson claimed on his Twitter account that Francesca had made one threat in his name, but he couldn’t prove it. He also made claims on his Twitter that she had threatened to kill President Donald Trump and he was worried he was being set up.
He also tweeted about what he believed was “his (Trump) and the white establishment’s effort to remove black ppl from the southside of Chicago.” He was strongly against Trump and his presidency.
He followed politics closely, tweeting about the Democratic Chair debate in February:
He also was against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock:
According to Riverfront Times, he “took imaginary trips to Cuba and Senegal” and “dubiously claimed” he was with the Standing Rock protesters in North Dakota. (But note: many people at one point were claiming they were with Standing Rock protestors in order to make it tougher for police to track who was really there.) Riverfront Times also noted that a kombucha meal he posted about on Twitter actually used a stolen photo from a blogger. The journalist for Riverfront Times also recounted how Thompson had gotten angry about his previous reporting and after that, he became the victim of cyberattacks and fake Twitter profiles claiming he was guilty of crimes like rape.
4. Thompson Fabricated a Cousin of Dylann Roof in a Story About the Charleston Church Shooter for The Intercept
The same Juan Thompson who claimed on Twitter that he was being framed for the JCC bombings was also fired by the Intercept in February 2016 for fabricating quotes and making up sources. Betsy Reed, editor-in-chief, wrote in February 2016:
The Intercept recently discovered a pattern of deception in the actions of a staff member. The employee, Juan Thompson, was a staff reporter from November 2014 until last month. Thompson fabricated several quotes in his stories and created fake email accounts that he used to impersonate people, one of which was a Gmail account in my name.
(Gawker reported that the Juan Thompson who was fired had used the @JuanMThompson Twitter account. According to a reporter from The Hill and Breaking911, this appears to be the same person who was arrested for the bomb threats.)
According to Betsy Reed, they found three instances when Thompson made up quotes and attributed them to people who hadn’t been interviewed. There were additional instances when “quotes were attributed to individuals … whose identities could not be confirmed.” He also used quotes from “unnamed people” who couldn’t be verified.
“Thompson went to great lengths to deceive his editors,” Reed wrote, “creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods.” She wrote that he had even created a Gmail account in her name, impersonating her.
One of the fabrications came in a report about Charleston Church shooter Dylann Roof. According to The Intercept, Thompson claimed he had spoken to a cousin of Roof, named Scott Roof. Thompson said Scott Roof speculated his cousin may have been driven to attack the historically black church because “kind of went over the edge when a girl he liked started dating a black guy two years back.” Here’s a tweet he made about it, which he has since deleted, but was captured by Internet Archive:
The Intercept later added an editor’s note to the story saying that after talking to two Roof family members, they found Scott Roof does not exist.
After he was fired from The Intercept, he got a new job at Media Blackout USA on September 9 and was fired on September 11 after writing just six stories, River Front Times reported. The site said he hadn’t done anything wrong, but they couldn’t be affiliated “with someone who writes fake reports.”
Thompson was hired by The Intercept’s founding editor-in-chief, John Cook, in November 2014. (Reed later replaced Cook when he moved on to Gawker.) At the time, the Intercept introduced him as a new staff reporter, who had been a production assistant and reporter for Chicago’s NPR station WBEZ, and had worked as a reporter for DNAinfo Chicago. He often reported about police brutality and hate crimes against African Americans. Here are some tweets he made while reporting for the Intercept. He later deleted these tweets, but they were captured by Internet Archive.
Since the arrest, The Intercept has released an official statement about Thompson:
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 Jewish Community Centers in addition to cyberstalking. These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted. We have no information about the charges against Thompson other than what is included in the criminal complaint. Thompson worked for The Intercept from November 2014 to January 2016, when he was fired after we discovered that he had fabricated sources and quotes in his articles.
Thompson denied that he had fabricated the stories. CNN shared this copy of Thompson’s email response to Betsy Reed:
5. He Planned to Run for Mayor of St. Louis in 2017, According to His Twitter
On his Twitter account, Thompson outlines his plan to run for mayor of St. Louis. He talked about a 10-point plan he had that he had coined the “St. Louis Deal.”
He tweeted, “I’m young, gifted, black and a socialist and I’m running for mayor of St. Louis in 2017.” He set up a GoFundMe account for his campaign. He wrote on his GoFundMe page: “I’m running for Mayor of St. Louis because I believe in people power and I need your help to get on the ballot and get campaign signs. Please donate whatever you can.” He only got $25 toward his $5,000 goal. He wrote, “Now of course I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes. We all have. But I know in my heart I will be the best mayor for this city and the leader we need to take us into the next decade.”
Thompson associated himself more with Democrat and progressive leanings. He liked Bernie Sanders, according to his Twitter, but in 2003 he loved Hillary Clinton:
He later changed his mind about that:
Thompson was not a fan of President Donald Trump. He wrote a story for the Intercept about being mistreated at a Trump rally. Much of this story was later shown to be fabricated, including quotes attributed to a woman and her husband whom he claimed were Trump supporters. The source said she did not support Trump and had not attended the rally. The Intercept added that they couldn’t verify other quotes in the story or the existence of a named Black Lives Matter activist. Here’s the Intercept’s original tweet about the article: