Man charged in eight bomb threats, part of five waves against Jewish centers this year

Federal agents have arrested Juan Thompson, who allegedly made some of the recent bomb threats in order to harass and vilify a former girlfriend.

Wilfredo Lee/AP
A sign outside the entrance to the David Posnack Jewish Community Center and David Posnack Jewish Day School is shown after people were evacuated because of a bomb threat, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Davie, Fla.

A boyfriend trying to vilify his ex-girlfriend after a breakup is charged with being behind at least eight of the bomb threats made in five waves over the past two months against Jewish Community Centers, including one threat to the Anti-Defamation League in New York, according to federal officials.

Juan Thompson was arrested in St. Louis, Mo., and is due to appear in a Missouri federal court on Friday to face a charge of cyberstalking. Prosecutors said Mr. Thompson wanted to harass his former girlfriend by claiming she was behind the threats.

The news of Thompson’s arrest comes just after the end of the fifth wave of bomb threats against JCCs since January, and on the heels of the vandalization Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Rochester, N.Y. And while some say claims of an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents is largely anecdotal, others point to federal investigations of 122 bomb threats against roughly 100 JCC schools, child care, and other facilities across 36 states as clear proof anti-Jewish sentiment is on the rise.

“We recognize that we live under a new set of circumstances that we have to be responsive to, and take every possible precaution to keep our people safe,” Judy Diamondstein, the chief executive officer of the New Haven Jewish Community Center, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency after one of the earlier wave of threats against Jewish sites in January. “While we are disrupted, we refuse to be daunted by this.”

President Trump has disavowed white supremacist and other right-wing groups, and Vice President Mike Pence visited the badly damaged St. Louis cemetery. But some, including members of such groups, claim that Trump’s rise to the presidency emboldened the activity of hate groups and anti-Semitic sentiment across the country.

When asked earlier in February about increased reports of anti-Jewish hate crimes, Trump told reporters it was "not a fair question" and said he was "the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your life."

The vandalism of the St. Louis cemetery also gave rise to a multiple displays of inter-religious compassion, such as when Muslim-American activists raised more than $65,000 to help their Jewish neighbors’ restoration efforts, surpassing an initial goal of $20,000.

In Philadelphia, hundreds turned out to a “Stand Against Hate” rally on Thursday in response to the recent vandalism of cemeteries and hate crimes.

A Jewish federation said it organized the rally to "restore a sense of security and peace to our community."

Federal officials said Thompson started harassing his ex-girlfriend the day after they broke up last summer, calling her workplace to claim that she’d been pulled over for driving while drunk. He ramped it up from there, sending emails to Jewish institutions that made it appear the woman was sending threats in his name. 

Based on Thompson’s Twitter account, Reuters reported that he is a former reporter from the national security-focused news website, The Intercept, which said it fired him last year for fabricating quotes and sources.

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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