NEW YORK (KMOX) — (UPDATED 5:35 p.m.) A 31-year-old man from St. Louis was arrested by federal authorities Friday, accused of phoning in threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country as well as Anti-Defamation League offices.
Juan Thompson is charged with one count of cyberstalking, which could carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Except for the handcuffs and ankle cuffs and chain, Thompson looked more like a man in line for coffee than a terrorist when he appeared in federal court in St. Louis Friday afternoon.
He was still wearing the blue denim button-down shirt, cotton khakis and leather hiking boots he was arrested in when he stood before the judge.
Thompson is accused of cyberstalking, making email bomb threats against at least eight Jewish sites around the country — and claiming to be his ex-girlfriend — to get even with her for breaking up with him.
He faces a transfer hearing here next week and could be sent to New York to face trial.
Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, says Thompson appears to have made at least eight JCC threats “as part of his campaign of harassment” against a woman who he’d had a romantic relationship with.
Not only did Thompson use the victim’s name while making the threats, he sent defamatory emails and faxes about her to her workplace.
On Feb. 7, 2017, a JCC in Manhattan received an anonymously emailed bomb threat saying, “Juan Thompson put two bombs in the office of the Jewish center today. He wants to create Jewish newtown tomorrow.” That’s believed to be a reference to the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.
Authorities say Thompson was trying to make it look like his victim was framing him.
For instance, on February 24, 2017, the Thompson Twitter Account posted: “[s]he [Victim-1], though I can’t prove it, even sent a bomb threat in my name to a Jewish center, which was odd given her antisemitic statements. I got a visit from the FBI. So now I’m battling the racist FBI and this vile, evil, racist white woman,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney in New York. On February 26, 2017, the Thompson Twitter Account posted “The hatred of Jews goes across all demos. Ask NYC’s [Victim-1’s employer]. They employ a filthy anti-Semite in [Victim-1]. These ppl are evil.”
A Riverfront Times reporter has been following the rise and fall of Thompson from Mehlville High School to Vassar to being dismissed from “The Intercept” news agency for allegedly faking news sources.
Doyle Murphy told KMOX’s Charlie Brennan that Thompson may also have been lying about a cancer diagnosis in recent years.
In a written statement, U.S. Attorney Bharara says:
“Everyone deserves to be free from fear and discrimination based on religion, race, or ethnicity; that is fundamental to who we are as a nation. Together with the FBI and the NYPD, we have been investigating the recent threats made on Jewish Community Centers in New York and around the country. 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. Threats of violence targeting people and places based on religion or race – whatever the motivation – are unacceptable, un-American, and criminal. We are committed to pursuing and prosecuting those who foment fear and hate through such criminal threats.”
The St. Louis Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri assisted with the investigation.
Karen Aroesty, of the Anti-Defamation League in St. Louis, says this arrest only involves a few of many threats against Jewish centers.
“There still is enormous anxiety out there,” she says, but notes, “the St. Louis community and the whole region has been just remarkable. In the face of trauma, there has been enormous community support. But I can tell you that the Jewish community is beyond being on edge.”