NEW YORK — A former reporter 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.
Thompson appeared in Missouri District Court on Friday afternoon court and was appointed an attorney. A detention hearing and transfer hearing is set for next week.
AF3IRM, a self-described “transnational feminist” group where the victim works, released a statement on Saturday detailing Thompson’s alleged intimidation.
“For months, we watched our sister go through a well-nigh unbearable situation of cyber-stalking, cyber abuse and cyber harassment. We wish this could have been resolved earlier,” the group said in a statement.
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 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.
Jewish groups react
Evan Bernstein, the New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, praised the arrest of Thompson but noted that the threats remained an issue.
“The diligence of law enforcement at such a critical time for the Jewish community is very reassuring,” said Bernstein. “Just because there’s been an arrest today around our bomb threat does not mean that the threats have disappeared or will stop.”
Leaders in the Jewish community met with FBI director James Comey on Friday to discuss the recent spate of threats against Jewish institutions, according to the JCC Association of North America.
The JCC released a photo of the meeting and said in a press release that leaders had the “highest confidence” that the FBI would resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Despite the many threats, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller affirmed that there has been “no specific, credible threat of violence” made to Jewish institutions in New York.