Disgraced journalist arrested in probe of bomb threats to US Jewish groups

The suspect made at least eight threats against JCCs as part of a "sustained campaign to harass and intimidate" a woman after the end of their romantic relationship.

March 3, 2017 19:24
Jewish Community Center Las Vegas

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department K-9 officers search the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada after an employee received a suspicious phone call that led about 10 people to evacuate the building on February 27, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. . (photo credit: ETHAN MILLER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)


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The Anti-Defamation League said on Friday that federal and New York law enforcement had informed them of an arrest made in connection with bomb threats made against the Jewish advocacy group and Jewish Community Centers in the United States.

The group said it had been told of an "arrest made" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York Police Department and the New York State Police, according to a posting on its Twitter account. Further details of the arrest were not immediately available.

Juan Thompson, the 31-year-old suspect, has been accused by federal prosecutors of a "campaign to harass and intimidate," ABC News reported on Friday. He has been charged with cyber-stalking a woman and threatening the JCCs in that woman's name. Prosecutors claim that Thompson made eight threats against JCCs as part of a "sustained campaign to harass and intimidate" the woman after the end of their romantic relationship.

According to the New York Daily News, Thompson began harassing the Brooklyn woman in July 2016 when she dumped him. The harassment included e-mails to her employer which accused her of being an antisemite, among other slurs. When he began calling in bomb threats to JCCs, he did so half under his name and half under his ex's, later blaming them all on her.

Thompson wrote in an e-mail that his former girlfriend "hates Jewish people (and is the head of a ring and put a bomb in (the San Diego) center to kill as many Jews asap." He also tweeted on February 24: "Know any good lawyers? Need to stop this nasty/racist #whitegirl I dated who sent a bomb threat in my name & wants to be raped in jail."

Thompson also tweeted about the bomb threats as if in outrage. "Another week, another round of threats against Jewish ppl," he posted on February 27th. "In the middle of the day, you know who's at the JCC? Kids. KIDS."

The Daily News reported that Thompson is a disgraced journalist who was exposed for using fabricated quotes in his reports.

The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into Jewish community centers, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year. In total, nearly 100 JCCs have received bomb threats in 2017 so far.
Wave of bomb threats called to Jewish commmunity centers across the US , possible antisemitism(credit: REUTERS)

ABC reported that FBI agents were worried that this large volume of calls would prompt people to begin ignoring the threats and cease to evacuate the facilities. Agents were concerned that "could present an opportunity for a location loaded with kids to be bombed." They also worried that the evacuations collected large groups of people outside of the JCCs who could be easy shooting or ramming targets.

New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill said, "The defendant caused havoc, expending hundreds of hours of police and law enforcement resources to respond and investigate these threats. We will continue to pursue those who pedal fear, making false claims about serious crimes. I'm grateful for the collaboration between the NYPD detectives, FBI agents, and prosecutors whose cross-country investigation led to this morning's arrest."

The Anti-Defamation league, whose New York office had also been targeted by Thompson, welcomed his arrest. “We are relieved and gratified that the FBI has made an arrest in these cases,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on Friday. “We applaud law enforcement’s unwavering effort to resolve this matter.”

Greenblatt added that the ADL, which works closely with law enforcement and has been in regular contact with local, state and federal officials nationwide,  is looking forward to “the quick resolution of the remaining open cases.”

The arrested individual had been on the radar of ADL’s Center on Extremism, which had followed his past activities, including his deceptive and at times false reports for a news website about Dylann Roof, the perpetrator of the church shooting in Charleston, SC.

According to ADL research, Thompson allegedly announced in November 2016 that he was running for mayor of St. Louis, to “fight back against Trumpian fascism and socio-economic terrorism” and claimed that he wanted to dismantle the system of “racial supremacy and greedy capitalism that is stacked against us.”

He even created a Gofundme page to raise $5,000 for his ostensible election bid for which he only got $25. Thompson also tweeted various rants against white people, calling them “trash” and saying they “have no shame.”

On February 21, Thompson allegedly e-mailed ADL’s Manhattan office, indicating that his former girlfriend was “behind the bomb threats against Jews.  She lives in NYC and is making more bomb threats tomorrow.”

The following day ADL received a phone call claiming that explosive material had been placed in the building.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday, “We must not be indifferent to the rising tide of hate crimes we’re seeing in New York City and nationwide. When you attack someone because of who they are, how they worship or who they love, you are attacking our democracy. Today, we thank law enforcement for aggressively pursuing and arresting a suspect in a disgusting series of threats against Jewish Community Centers. Our country was founded to shelter the oppressed and respect all faiths. It’s up to every generation to protect those American values.”

In a statement, the JCC Association of North America’s new president and CEO, Doron Krakow, added that they were gratified by the arrest, and  trusted that the perpetrators would be swiftly brought to justice.

Reuters and JTA contributed to this report.

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