Image via BricTV
Juan Thompson, shown during a video segment, was building a career as a sharp-tongued journalist before he was fired.
Juan Thompson, a disgraced former reporter from St. Louis, pleaded guilty today in Manhattan federal court to cyberstalking and making hoax bomb threats — charges that carry a maximum of ten years in prison.
The crazed ex-journalist admitted in court that he launched a string of bomb hoaxes at Jewish community centers as part of vicious campaign of revenge against his ex-girlfriend before being arrested in March
Thompson had been the subject of a Riverfront Times cover story in February 2016
that detailed the pattern of lies that led to his firing from the Intercept online news site. (Full disclosure: I believe he also targeted me for harassment as a result
of the story.)
The 32-year-old's attacks on his ex-girlfriend were twisted and obsessive. The day after she ended their relationship in July 2016, he emailed her boss in New York with allegations that she had been stopped for drunk driving and sued for spreading sexually transmitted diseases, according the FBI. In the email, he pretended he was a national TV news producer.
The FBI refers to that message as the "Hoax News Email" in court documents. But it was only the beginning.
New York City-based attorney Carrie Goldberg, who is representing the woman, says Thompson "terrorized" her client during a long-running pattern of abuse.
"For months our client was the target of relentless and unrelenting online stalking, defamation, and impersonation at the hands of Juan Thompson," says Goldberg, who specializes in revenge porn and cyberstalking cases. "What began as revenge porn culminated in a national news story when he called in hoax bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers around the country, again impersonating her or claiming he knew she was about to take this violent action."
Thompson sent the woman emails from anonymous accounts with nude pictures of her and threatened to release them publicly, the FBI says. She also began receiving texts from people who were supposedly Thompson's friends and relatives, telling her that he had been hacked, that he was sorry and even that he had been shot and was near death.
In October, he allegedly settled on a new scheme: He would try to frame her. He first directed the lies toward her employer. He emailed the organization where the woman worked as a social worker and claimed that she had threatened to kill him.
He followed up with faxed claims that she was an anti-Semite, and then more emails alleging she had a sexually transmitted disease. She had taken out a restraining order against Thompson, but it did nothing to stop him.
He even anonymously contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, posing as a someone who had just met the woman and wanted to report her for child porn.
"I was at a disco-tech two weeks ago and met [the woman] who said she watched child porn," the message said. "I thought she was joking until she showed me two pictures, on her phone, of a child engaged in sex acts."
The FBI later traced the message to Thompson's home in north St. Louis city.
It was all part of Thompson's campaign to make the woman's life absolutely miserable, authorities and the woman's attorney say. He persisted despite renewed orders of protection, despite a visit from St. Louis police and even despite a call from New York City police, in which a detective told him to stop.
Instead of backing off, Thompson began making bomb threats in January and February. He called or emailed eight of them, with targets ranging from the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish History Museum in Manhattan all the way across the country to a Jewish community center in San Diego. He passed along bogus info about a bomb at a Jewish community center in Dallas and warned that a "Jewish newtown" was coming for a Jewish school in Michigan.
Sometimes, he claimed the woman was planning the attacks. Sometimes, he placed the threats in his own name — apparently to bolster a bizarre claim the woman was trying to frame him. He would follow up with posts on Twitter, alleging he had been hacked and his ex-girlfriend was a racist who was trying to frame him.
Finally, on March 3, he was arrested by FBI agents and city police in north St. Louis. A relative told the Riverfront Times
that day that Thompson was taken into custody at his grandmother's home
"Thompson’s threats not only inflicted emotional distress on his victim, but also harmed Jewish communities around the country," acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim said in a statement. "Thanks to the dedicated work of the FBI and NYPD, Thompson will now be held to account for his crimes."
Goldberg also praised investigators for stopping Thompson.
"We give tremendous credit to the team that investigated and prosecuted this case and expect it to be a lesson about the patterns escalation we so often see at our firm among the victims of stalking who we represent," Goldberg said in an email to the Riverfront Times
. "At this point, we hope the media respects our client's privacy at home and work since it was her privacy that was so under attack by this man."
Thompson will be sentenced for his crimes in New York on September 15.
Editor's note: This story was altered after publication to include additional details and comments.
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