A man was arrested Friday in St. Louis for allegedly making threats against Jewish community centers, as well as cyberstalking and threatening a woman he previously dated. The man, Juan Thompson, is a reporter who was fired from the Intercept in 2016 for making up sources and quotes.
In the past month, there has been a disturbing wave of threats against Jewish community centers across the United States. According to a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York, which you can read in full here, authorities believe Thompson terrorized his former girlfriend by making threats in her name against Jewish community centers as well as the Anti-Defamation League. Thompson is not suspected of being the source of the bulk of the recent JCC threats; his appears to have been a copycat crime.
The criminal complaint accuses Thompson of making the threats as part of a “sustained campaign to harass and intimidate” his victim. Thompson has, in recent weeks, frequently tweeted about the JCC threats, professing outrage.
He’s also tweeted obsessively about the woman, calling her “unstable and violent” and trying to sic the Secret Service on her. On February 27, he reported that he’d been visited by the Secret Service himself.
Thompson has also vowed on Twitter to try to get his victim’s professional license revoked.
Thompson worked at the Intercept as a reporter from November 2014 to February 2016; he was hired by John Cook, then The Intercept’s editor-in-chief.(Cook is now the editor of Gizmodo Media Group’s Special Projects Desk, where I work.)
Thompson was fired after his editors discovered what Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed described as “a pattern of deception.” In a note, Reed wrote that 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.” In a Medium post, Thompson, who is black, accused his former employers of firing him for racially-motivated reasons.
Reed tells BuzzFeed News that based on his Twitter account, she believes the Thompson who was arrested is the same Thompson who worked at the site.
In the criminal complaint against him, prosecutors allege that Thompson began harassing his victim in July 2016, soon after she ended their relationship, and continued until his arrest in March of this year. Soon after their breakup, according to an FBI special agent, the victim began receiving emails purportedly from a friend of Thompson’s, claiming that he’d been shot in a robbery and was about to be taken off life support. (The FBI doesn’t believe Thompson was ever shot.)
According to the complaint, in September, the victim received an email threatening to leak nude photographs of her. By October, her coworkers were receiving emails alleging that she had a sexually transmitted disease. By 2017, the FBI suspects that Thompson changed his tactics, making “at least eight JCC threats nationwide.” Some were made in his victim’s name, they say, while others were made in Thompson’s own name; they believe he then tried to make it look like his victim was trying to frame him for the crimes.
The threats were made against a Jewish museum in Manhattan, a JCC in Michigan, a Jewish school in Manhattan, a JCC in San Diego, and the ADL offices in New York. Thompson is expected to be arraigned in a St. Louis court on Friday.
Update, 11:30 a.m.:
The Intercept issued a statement calling Thompson’s alleged actions “heinous.”
This story has been updated to reflect that Thompson was hired at the Intercept by John Cook.