Disgraced ex-Chicago reporter charged with Jewish center threats

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- A former journalist, who worked in Chicago, has been arrested in relation to several threats of violence against Jewish community centers.

Juan Thompsons' journalism career went down the tubes a year ago when he was fired from online magazine The Intercept for making up quotes. Thompson was in Chicago in 2013 and 2014 as a news intern and reporter. He's now in federal lockup in St. Louis, charged in connection with threats against Jewish community centers and, according to prosecutors, motivated by revenge against an ex-girlfriend.

FBI agents removed electronics, paper records and boxloads of other potential evidence Friday from Thompson's St. Louis home. The 31-year-old was arrested on a federal cyberstalking complaint after being accused in a bizarre, months-long campaign against an ex-girlfriend in Brooklyn.

Part of the plot, according to investigators, included launching a series of copycat bomb threats against Jewish organizations across the country. Thompson allegedly emailed the threats to Jewish community centers, schools, a museum and other organizations on eight days in January and February, either using his ex-girlfriend's name or his own.

Thompson made news a year ago when he was fired from The Intercept after his ethical breaches were exposed. Prior to that he was an intern at the online DNAInfo Chicago and public radio station WBEZ.

DNAInfo Chicago still displays the stories he covered and wrote in July and August of 2013, and he is still listed as a staff reporter on the DNAInfo New York website, although DNAInfo sources said he hasn't' worked at their company in more than three years.

Investigators said they are still looking into his possible connection to a larger series of threats against Jewish centers, but it would appear there are still suspects on the loose without connection to the Thompson case.

"Just because there's been an arrest today around our bomb threat doesn't meant the threats will disappear or stop. Hate towards the Jewish community or other minority groups is very real and deeply concerning," said Evan Bernstein of the Anti-Defamation League.

After Thompson became aware he was under investigation, he took to social media claiming that his ex-girlfriend was trying to falsely implicate him.

Thompson appeared in federal court in St. Louis Friday afternoon with his ankles and wrists shackled. He will be held until a detention hearing next Wednesday. There have been at least 100 bomb threats against Jewish community centers in Illinois and 32 other states so far this year.


"We were horrified to learn this morning that Juan Thompson, a former employee of The Intercept, has been arrested in connection with bomb threats against the ADL and multiple Jewish Community Centers in addition to cyberstalking. These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted. We have no information about the charges against Thompson other than what is included in the criminal complaint. Thompson worked for The Intercept from November 2014 to January 2016, when he was fired after we discovered that he had fabricated sources and quotes in his articles."
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