JCC, ADL bomb threats: Suspect Juan Thompson arrested in St. Louis, prosecutors say

Juan Thompson of St. Louis was charged on Friday, March 3, 2017, with making bomb threats against Jewish community centers, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
Juan Thompson of St. Louis was charged on Friday, March 3, 2017, with making bomb threats against Jewish community centers, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. Photo Credit: CBS All Access

A man has been arrested and charged in connection with bomb threats against the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish institutions, prosecutors said Friday morning. 

The individual, identified as Juan Thompson, 31, was arrested in St. Louis and is due to appear in court later Friday, prosecutors said. 

Thompson is accused of making at least eight threats in recent months, including the threat to the ADL. He allegedly made some of the threats in his ex-girlfriend’s name, 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,” Bharara said.

The threat to the ADL’s headquarters on Third Avenue was made on Feb. 22, 2017. It was not immediately clear when the other threats Thompson is accused of were made. Jewish community centers have received five waves of hoax bomb threats this year.

Three centers on Staten Island were evacuated on Feb. 27 after one received an anonymous threat. Other centers in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Indiana, Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida also received threats that day.

The ADL praised law enforcement for making an arrest in the case during a Friday afternoon news conference in New York City, but said more work needs to be done to fight against anti-Semitism.

“Hate toward the Jewish community and other minority groups is very real and deeply concerning,” said ADL New York Regional Director Evan Bernstein. “There is no cure for anti-Semitism. It is the world’s oldest hatred.”

Bernstein also lauded efforts by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to fight against hate crimes in New York. Earlier this week, the governor proposed the state allocate $25 million in additional funds for security measures at religious schools.

“It’s speaking out clearly and loudly,” having a plan and taking action on that plan, Bernstein said, adding that he hoped others would follow Cuomo’s example.

Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement about the arrest Friday, calling the bomb threats attacks on our democracy.

“Today, we thank law enforcement for aggressively pursuing and arresting a suspect in a disgusting series of threats against Jewish Community Centers,” he said. “Our country was founded to shelter the oppressed and respect all faiths. It’s up to every generation to protect those American values.”

Thompson was a reporter for the Intercept, a news website focused on national security, until he was fired in January 2016 after the website said he had invented sources and quotes.

In a statement, Intercept editor Betsy Reed said the website was “horrified” that Thompson had been arrested for what she called “heinous” acts, but said she had no more information.

Last year, the Intercept said Thompson created a fake email account to hide his fabrications, the same technique that federal authorities have accused him of using for the bomb threats.

A woman that Thompson was dating broke up with him in July 2016, prompting months of his increasingly harassing online behavior, according to the complaint.

A day after they broke up, Thompson sent an email purporting to be a producer at a national news organization to her boss at a social service organization in New York, according to the complaint. The email claimed she had been pulled over for drunk driving and sued for spreading a sexually transmitted disease.

By January, Thompson had turned to the bomb threats, prosecutors said. In some cases he emailed threats using the woman’s name, according to the complaint. In others he used his own name then claimed she had hacked his email account.

“While the motive is unclear, the impact is crystal clear,” said Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism. “Threatening Jewish institutions is an anti-Semitic act.”

Segal said Thompson’s arrest for only eight of the incidents is proof that more arrests are needed.

“This suggests there are additional perpetrators still at large responsible for the over 100 other threats to Jewish institutions made this year,” he said.

-With Reuters and Lauren Cook