This story has been updated.
On the heels of bomb threats that targeted Jewish community centers in the Hudson Valley , a former journalist Missouri who attended college in the Hudson Valley is facing federal charges in Manhattan for cyberstalking.
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said on Friday that 31-year-old Juan Thompson, of St. Louis, was facing up to five years in prison on a cyberstalking charge for allegedly harassing one woman, who was reportedly a former girlfriend, and communicating threats to several Jewish community centers in her name.
Thompson was a political science major at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie who enrolled in the school in 2009 before dropping out in 2013 without a degree, according to reports.
The news website The Intercept said Thompson worked there for a little more than a year, until his January 2016 firing which came after it was discovered he fabricated sources and quotes in his stories.
Shortly after 9 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 27, the Jewish Community Center on the Hudson was evacuated in Tarrytown, when a bomb threat was made, Police Lt. John Barbalet said. Hours later, at approximately 11 a.m., the JCC of Mid-Westchester on the New Rochelle-Scarsdale town line was evacuated for a similar threat, police confirmed.
Thompson does not appear to be the main person behind the JCC threats, but did it to harass the former girlfriend, according to reports.
According to the complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court on Friday, Thompson has made as many as eight threats against Jewish community centers “as part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimidate” his victim. Bharara noted that the harassment began after their romantic relationship ended, and included, among other things, defamatory emails and faxes to her employer, false reports of criminal activity by his victim, and threats in her name.
In January and February, Thompson allegedly made at least eight threats, including instances last week, where he used his victim’s name and birthday before making a bomb threat the following day via email. He also allegedly made threats against Jewish community centers in his own name, as part of a claim that his victim was ultimately trying to frame him for a crime.
“In February, 2017, a JCC in Manhattan received an emailed bomb threat from an anonymous email account, which stated: ‘Juan Thompson (Thompson’s birthday) put two bombs in the office of the Jewish center today. He wants to create Jewish Newtown tomorrow,’” the unsealed complaint says.
Earlier this month, Thompson also used social media accounts to accuse his victim of responsibility for recent threats to Jewish community centers, claiming that his victim was attempting to frame Thompson for the crimes.
“(The victim), though I can’t prove it, even sent a bomb threat in my name to a Jewish center, which was odd given her antiseptic statements. I got a visit from the FBI. So now I’m battling the racist FBI and this vile, evil, racist white woman,” he posted on Feb. 24. Two days later, he allegedly posted “The hatred of Jews goes across all demos. Ask NYC’s (the victim’s employer). They employ a filthy anti-Semite,” from the same account.
“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.”
Thompson has been charged with one count of cyberstalking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. He is due back in court later this year.
“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,” Bharara stated. “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.”