MANHATTAN (CN) — He hounded his ex with text messages, emailed her boss to get her fired, and in 2017 used her name when he sent a string of bomb threats to Jewish targets.
For his crimes, former Intercept journalist Juan Thompson was given a five-year prison term for cyberstalking.
The sentence depended on a federal judge’s finding that Thompson had violated a protective order awarded to his ex in August 2016. But the Second Circuit on Wednesday found one problem.
“Although it is undisputed that Thompson’s … behavior would have violated the protection order, it is also undisputed that Thompson was never ‘formally served’ with the petition, orders, or corresponding summonses,” U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Wesley wrote for a three-judge panel.
Ordering that Thompson be resentenced, the Manhattan federal appeals court said that the mere issuance a protective order did not give the family court personal jurisdiction over Thompson. To achieve would require proof that Thompson was properly served.
“In sum, the government has failed to prove that, under New York law, Thompson was properly served with the disputed ex parte protection order, and, thus, that the issuing court ever exercised personal jurisdiction over Thompson — i.e., that the court ever had the power to enjoin his behavior,” Wesley wrote. “The order was therefore inconsistent with 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(1) and cannot serve as the basis for an enhancement.”
At the time when Thompson and his girlfriend broke up in 2016, he had just been fired by The Intercept after the investigative news website discovered he had fabricated his supposedly exclusive interview with a relative of Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine black churchgoers a year earlier in Charleston, South Carolina.
Thompson played the faker again a year later when hoax bomb threats were mailed to the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish community centers around the country, sparking panic shortly after the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
On Feb. 21, the ADL received an email falsely identifying Thompson’s former girlfriend as the one “behind the bomb threats against jews.”
“She lives in nyc and is making more bomb threats tomorrow,” the email said.
Thompson, who is 34 this year, was sentenced after pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York.
On appeal, federal defender Edward Zas argued that the correct sentencing range is 30 to 37 months.
Zas did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Wednesday’s ruling does not identify Thompson’s girlfriend, a social worker who worked as a clinical director of a New York-based nonprofit at the time of her breakup.