MANHATTAN (CN) — Believed to be the culprit behind at least 12 bomb threats against Jewish targets, a disgraced former reporter for The Intercept pleaded guilty on Tuesday to cyberstalking and hoax-making charges that could put him behind bars for 10 years.
Juan Thompson’s journalism career tanked last year amid revelations that he made up his supposedly exclusive interview with a relative of Dylann Roof, the mass murderer behind the Charleston, South Carolina, shooting.
After breaking up with his girlfriend that summer, the St. Louis native tried to set her up for a string of threats against Jewish community centers and the Anti-Defamation League that sparked panic shortly after the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
Thompson, 32, smirked throughout his roughly half-hour-long plea hearing this morning, appearing oddly detached as he gave formal and stilted answers to questions posed by U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel.
Questioned about his mental state, Thompson replied: “I’m slightly nervous, but I have to deal with the consequences of my actions, which is why I’m here today.”
At the time of Thompson’s arrest in March, the United States had experienced a string of more than 90 bomb threats and acts of vandalism targeting Jewish cemeteries, community centers and places of worship.
While Thompson’s case explained a handful of those, Israeli police later arrested a 19-year-old Jewish man from Israel behind the majority of others.
Thompson pleaded guilty to two counts of cyberstalking and conveying false information and hoaxes, involving weapons of mass destruction, each of which carries a possible five-year sentence and $250,000 fine.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim commented on the “fear and distress” that Thompson fueled.
“As he admitted today in pleading guilty, Thompson made these threats as part of a cruel campaign to cyberstalk a victim with whom he previously had a relationship,” the prosecutor said in a statement. “Thompson’s threats not only inflicted emotional distress on his victim, but also harmed Jewish communities around the country.”
Under the terms of his plea agreement, Thompson is likely to serve a much shorter term at his sentencing on Sept. 15. While the defense is pushing for up to three years, prosecutors calculated his sentencing guideline as between 37 and 46 months.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Warren said Thompson will not be able to appeal any sentence below the government’s calculations.
The 11-page criminal complaint against Thompson noted that the Anti-Defamation League received an email on Feb. 21, 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.
Prosecutors say that the ADL had to evacuate its New York office a day later when it received a call from someone using a voice disguiser from an untraceable number, who warned that C-4 would be “detonated within one hour.”
Thompson apologized for his “false and salacious” allegations against his ex, a social worker who worked as a clinical director of a New York-based nonprofit.
“I committed all of these acts with the intent to disrupt my ex-romantic partner’s life and cause her great distress,” he said. “For this, I deeply apologize and plead guilty.”
Authorities traced Thompson to this and other threats to other Jewish targets in Manhattan, San Diego and Michigan.
Thompson’s defense attorneys Michael Gombiner and Jullian Harris-Calvin declined to comment.