(JTA) – A St. Louis man has been charged for making at least eight bomb threats against Jewish community centres and the Anti-Defamation League.
Juan Thompson, 31, made some of the threats in the name of a former romantic partner whom he had been cyberstalking, according to a statement Friday by the U.S. Attorney of Southern New York. Thompson has been charged with cyberstalking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
“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 centres and to the Anti-Defamation League,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “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.”
Thompson made some of the threats in his victim’s name and some in his own in an attempt to portray himself as being framed. In a series of Twitter posts this week, he claimed his victim was in fact making the threats and framing him. He also tweeted sympathetic messages expressing support for the Jewish victims of the threats.
But the FBI complaint against Thompson says he was behind at least eight of the threats made in January and February, mostly via email. The complaint says Thompson threatened institutions including the ADL, JCCs in San Diego and New York City, schools in New York and Michigan, and a Jewish history museum in New York City. In the threats to the schools, made on Feb. 1, Thompson referred to a “Jewish newtown,” a reference to the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecuticut.
In total, more than 100 Jewish institutions, mostly JCCs, have received bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia, St. Louis and Rochester, New York, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into JCCs, schools and institutions across the U.S. [as well as to two JCCs in Canada], representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year. No explosive device was found after any of the calls.
“The NYPD and the FBI have done an outstanding job in this regard,” Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, which co-ordinates security for Jewish institutions, told JTA on Friday. “We at SCN and the Jewish Federations of North America commend them and hold them in the highest regard.”
The threats prompted clamour for U.S. President Donald Trump to condemn the anti-Semitism behind the targeting of Jewish institutions.
After initially demurring to comment directly when asked about the spate of recent anti-Semitic incidents, Trump eventually called the threats to the community centres “horrible” and “painful,” and Vice-President Mike Pence paid a visit to a Jewish cemetery vandalized near St. Louis.