MANHATTAN (CN) — Dozens of anti-Jewish hate crimes still remain unsolved, but federal prosecutors identified the culprit behind a handful of the incidents Friday as a disgraced journalist who was fired last year for fabricating quotations.
Juan Thompson lost his job at the Intercept in January 2016 after his supposed exclusive interview with a relative of Charleston mass murderer Dylann Roof turned out to be fiction.
Apparently the 31-year-old St. Louis, Missouri, man broke up with his girlfriend come summer, and prosecutors say he tried to make her take the fall for at least eight fake bomb threats he made in recent months against Jewish Community Centers.
Court papers unsealed this morning describe Thompson’s “sustained campaign to harass and intimidate” the unnamed woman.
“Know any good lawyers?” he posted to his Twitter account on Feb. 24. “Need to stop this nasty/racist #whitegirl I dated who sent a bomb threat in my name & wants me to be raped in jail.”
Below this tweet, Thompson attached a rant against the woman — a social worker who serves clinical director of a New York-based nonprofit — and said that the FBI already had paid him a visit.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, the nation’s pre-eminent hate-group monitor, emphasized that today’s arrest does not solve the mystery of the other 92 incidents of bomb threats and cemetery desecration Jewish sites have faced.
To help ferret out the other suspects, the Federal Communications Commission created an exception Friday to rules that prohibit carriers from passing on the phone numbers of callers who have tried to keep those details private.
“Pending further proceedings on the public notice described below, we conclude that there is good cause to grant such a waiver on an emergency basis due to a large number of recent bomb-threat calls targeting these facilities and substantial disruption and fear caused as a result,” the 6-page waiver order states.
For now, this exception applies only to Jewish community centers temporarily, and the commission will seek public comment to determine whether to make the waiver permanent.
In Thompson’s case, the threats to Jewish targets appeared to be motivated more by revenge than anti-Semitic prejudice.
On Feb. 21, the Anti-Defamation League received an email falsely identifying Thompson’s former girlfriend as the one “behind the bomb threats against jews,” according to the 11-page complaint.
“She lives in nyc and is making more bomb threats tomorrow,” the email said.
The ADL had to evacuate its New York office a day later after receiving a call from someone warning that C-4 would be “detonated within one hour.” Prosecutors say that the caller used a voice disguiser from an untraceable number.
Prosecutors accuse Thompson of being behind this and other threats to other Jewish targets in Manhattan, San Diego and Michigan.
The Michigan target had been a middle school in Farmington Hills, which received a message in which the threat-maker said he had been “eager for a Jewish newtown,” referring to the Connecticut school shooting that killed 20 people in December 2012, according to the complaint.
Though his office is treating Thompson’s case as cyberstalking, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara emphasized that threats against an ethic group are beyond the pale, whatever the motivation.
“Everyone deserves to be free from fear and discrimination based on religion, race, or ethnicity,” Bharara said in a statement. “That is fundamental to who we are as a nation.”
Federal and local authorities continue to investigate the other incidents, as well as the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Rochester, New York, and in St. Louis, where Thompson is from.
“Threats of violence targeting people and places based on religion or race – whatever the motivation – are unacceptable, un-American, and criminal,” Bharara added.
Prosecutors say that Thompson’s harassment campaign long predates the more recent threats against Jewish Community Centers.
On July 27, 2016, the woman’s employer received a hoax email from someone pretending to be a news producer investigating her for drunken driving and spreading a sexually transmitted disease.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received an anonymous tip a few months later accusing the woman of watching child pornography.
“I was at a disco-tech two weeks ago and met [Victim-1] who said she watched child porn,” the email said, according to the complaint. “I thought she was joking until she showed me two pictures, on her phone, of a child engaged in sex acts.”
The FBI traced both emails to Thompson’s IP address.
Since the harassment began, the woman obtained a New York state order of protection against Thompson and renewed it twice.
The Intercept’s editor-in-chief Betsy Reed said that the publication was “horrified” to learn of the allegations against Thompson.
“These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted,” she wrote. “We have no information about the charges against Thompson other than what is included in the criminal complaint.”
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