Journalist Went From Making Fake News to Allegedly Making Bomb Threats to Frame His Ex
Juan Thompson was fired for inventing stories, including one about Dylann Roof. Now he’s under arrest for supposedly calling Jewish centers, pretending to be his old love interest.
The St. Louis, Missouri man arrested in connection with a series of recent bomb threats at Jewish community centers has been identified as the disgraced ex-Intercept reporter, Juan M. Thompson.
Authorities have charged the 31-year-old former journalist with cyberstalking, alleging he threatened at least eight JCC centers nationwide and the Anti-Defamation League as part of a campaign to harass and intimidate a former girlfriend.
Thompson began harassing his girlfriend shortly after she broke up with him last summer. Over the last six months, according to the criminal complaint, Thompson sent defamatory emails and faxes to the victim’s workplace — claiming she had sexually transmitted diseases, that she had been charged with drunk driving — as well as making threats to JCCs in the her name.
According to the complaint, In September, Thompson sent an email with nude photographs of the victim to her and threatened to release them. In October, he sent an email to the victim’s workplace alleging to the human resources manager that the victim was threatening to kill him.
Thompson then sent “tips” to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children claiming his ex-girlfriend had engaged in child pornography.
The messages — sent by email addresses produced by random generators for throwaway accounts — were sent from the same IP address that Thompson used to access his social media accounts, according to the FBI.
The threats to JCCs came in two forms: in some he contacted the centers and made threats under the victim’s name. In others, he emailed or called and made threats under his own name, in order to frame his ex-girlfriend.
These alleged attempts to frame his former girlfriend can still be seen on his Twitter feed. In his pinned tweet from February 25, Thompson writes: “Know any good lawyers? Need to stop this nasty/racist #whitegirl I dated who sent a bomb threat in my name & wants me to be raped in jail.”
As evidenced by his Twitter feed, Thompson has been particularly interested in the bomb threats and vandalism targeting Jewish centers in recent weeks.
On February 26, he tweeted, “Another week, another round of threats against Jewish ppl. In the middle of the day, you know who's at a JCC? Kids. KIDS.”
Twenty-five days earlier, FBI investigators allege in the charging document, Thompson made two separate bomb threats to a Jewish school in Manhattan.
“Juan Thompson put two bombs in the middle school last night. He is eager to a Jewish newtown," the anonymous email allegedly read.
Though not mentioned in the complaint, five months ago, an anonymous poster made a request on an 8chan message board where users can crowdsource a doxxing.
“What can I do to destroy her life?” the anonymous poster wrote, adding the victim’s name, address, and workplace, and similar allegations noted in the cyberstalking complaint — namely that she had infected him with a sexually transmitted disease.
While Thompson called his ex-girlfriend a menace in public and threatened her privately, he was also allegedly contacting the victim with stories of his own personal struggles.
In text messages and emails, the complaint alleges Thompson told her he had been hacked by “someone in Africa” and was not responsible for several harassing emails, and that he was sorry and would compensate her for her pain. Weeks later he posed as a relative and said he had been shot multiple times during a robbery attempt and would be taken off life support. There had been no shooting, according to the complaint.
This wasn’t Thompson’s first go as a fabulist.
Thompson had worked at The Intercept for a little over a year when he was fired in February 2016, after the national security site discovered he had fabricated quotes and made up sources in a story about a black church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Thompson went to great lengths to deceive his editors, creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods,” Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed wrote in a note to readers explaining the firing.
The story that first alerted editors and sparked an internal investigation, ”Dylann Roof’s Cousin Claims Love Interest Chose Black Man Over Him.” was retracted, with a note that the story’s major source, “Scott Roof,” did not seem to exist.
“Dylann was normal until he started listening to that white power music stuff,” Thompson wrote in the piece pretending he was Scott Roof. “Dylann liked her. The black guy got her. He changed. I don’t know if we would be here if not.”
“After speaking with two members of Dylann Roof’s family, The Intercept can no longer stand by the premise of this story. Both individuals said that they do not know of a cousin named Scott Roof,” a note on the retracted piece reads.
In addition to retracting the Roof story, The Intercept corrected four others.
The Guardian also reported last February that Thompson had misleading information on his author biography for The Intercept. He claimed that he had worked as a production assistant and reporter for WBEZ, a public radio station in Chicago, but a WBEZ executive said that wasn’t true.
Gawker reported that Thompson claimed to his Intercept boss that he was undergoing treatment for testicular cancer and that he had been called a “stray dog” at the publication. Reed said that Thompson added that particular line in his letter to various news outlets and never mentioned it to Reed in his initial letter about his alleged treatment.
A personal essay at Talking Points Memo was also removed. In the piece, Thompson wrote about his father, who he claims was a notorious drug dealer and murderer.
"The integrity of the piece rests inevitably on the good faith of the writer — a fundamental trust that he or she is being straight with us as editors and you as readers," TPM editor Josh Marshall wrote in part after taking the essay down.
In response to his dismissal, Thompson told The Riverfront Times, a St. Louis alternative newsweekly, “I'm going through a tough time right now, but I've been through a lot tougher times than this," he says. "I'm from the west side of St. Louis, and we're fighters, and we come through, and I will come through on this. I won't be silenced or cowed by any billionaire's company or by any of these folk. That just won't happen."
Thompson is set to appear before a Missouri judge Friday.
“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. “The FBI and our partners take these crimes seriously. I would also like to thank the NYPD and the New York State Police, who continue to work shoulder to shoulder with us as we investigate and track down every single threat and work together to achieve justice for our communities that have been victimized by these threats.”
The Intercept released a statement following the unsealing of Thompson’s indictment.
“We were horrified to learn this morning that Juan Thompson, a former employee of The Intercept, has been arrested in connection with bomb threats against the ADL and multiple Jewish Community Centers in addition to cyberstalking. These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted. We have no information about the charges against Thompson other than what is included in the criminal complaint.”
At least 81 Jewish Community Centers and schools across 33 states and two Canadian provinces have received threatening calls or emails since January, according the JCC Association of North America. The spate of anti-Semitic threats prompted President Trump to respond in his speech before Congress this week.
“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms,” he said.
— Additional reporting by Gideon Resnick