Police have arrested a Missouri man named Juan Thompson for allegedly threatening Jewish Community Centers and the Anti-Defamation League, according to a complaint officials unsealed on Friday.
“Everyone deserves to be free from fear and discrimination based on religion, race or ethnicity,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said in a statement. “That is fundamental to who we are as a nation.”
Related: 20 bomb threats follow Jewish cemetery desecration
Thompson is also accused of stalking a romantic interest. He allegedly made some of the threats in her name, officials said. The eight threats against Jewish Community Centers he allegedly made still account for only a small portion of those recently made to such institutions.
Thompson has written for the The Intercept, a journalism website co-founded by Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill. Referring to Thompson, the editor of The Intercept, Betsy Reed, said in February 2016 the publication had “discovered a pattern of deception in the actions of a staff member.” Reed said Thompson had fabricated quotes in articles and used fake email accounts to impersonate people, including the editor. Reed said Thompson’s employment had been ended a month earlier.
The Anti-Defamation league
that it's Center on Extremism had previously monitored Thompson, includnig for "his deceptive reports for a news website about Dylann Roof," the white supremacist who killed nine people at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015.
The ADL Center on Extremism has followed his past activities, including his deceptive reports for a news website about Dylann Roof.— ADL (@ADL_National) March 3, 2017
Police have arrested Juan Thompson, who wrote for The Intercept, for allegedly making threats to Jewish institutions. Three Jewish cemeteries were also vandalized in recent weeks, including Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, pictured here on February 27. Tom Mihalek/REUTERS
Since the beginning of 2017, about 100 threats have been made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions in the United States. Vandals have also struck Jewish cemeteries in Missouri, Pennsylvania and New York state, toppling hundreds of headstones.
On February 27, the ADL issued a “security advisory” to Jewish institutions because of the threats. That day, JCCs and Jewish schools received 31 bomb threats, according to the JCC Association of North America. The previous day, police and community members found headstones toppled at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia. A local rabbi and others who surveyed the cemetery counted 539 damaged plots. “People are pissed off,” Steven Rosenberg, chief marketing officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, previously told Newsweek. “They’ve had enough.”
Friday’s news is the first publicly announced arrest in what has been five waves of threats in 2017. Law enforcement sources had speculated that some of the threatening calls originated overseas, according to CNN. Another law enforcement source has said the calls “appear to be coordinated,” and are coming from both overseas and inside the U.S., CBS reported. The FBI has said it and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating possible civil rights violations connected to the threats.
There have been other arrests and prosecutions for threats or attacks on Jewish institutions in the U.S. In 2015, a Kentucky man named Paul Apple appeared in court after allegedly leaving a threatening note on a JCC employee’s desk. In 2014, a gunman named Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr. killed three at a Jewish Community Center in Kansas and a nearby Jewish retirement community, including a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather. He was convicted and sentenced to death. A 2009 shooting at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. left one dead. The suspect, James von Brunn, died while awaiting trial. In July 2006, a gunman named Naveed Afzal Haq killed one and injured six others at the Seattle Jewish Federation. He was convicted and sentenced to life without parole, plus 120 years. In 1999, Buford O. Furrow, Jr., a white supremacist opened fire at the Los Angeles Jewish Community Center, injuring five, including a 5-year-old and two 6-year-olds. Later that day he murdered a mail carrier. He was sentenced to two life terms without parole, plus 110 years, and also ordered to pay almost $700,000 in restitution.
President Donald Trump condemned the recent anti-Semitic acts during his address to a joint session of Congress on February 28: “Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.” The Kansas City shooting the president referred to involved the killing of an Indian national at a bar the wounding of his co-worker, who is also from India. The FBI has said it is investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Jewish community members had previously criticized Trump for a seeming unwillingness to condemn the anti-Semitic trend. On February 28, prior to the address to Congress, Trump said, “Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people—or make others—look bad,” according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who recalled Trump’s remarks during an interview with Buzzfeed.Try Newsweek: Subscription offers