Juan M. Thompson
Juan M. Thompson
|Residence||St. Louis, Missouri|
|Criminal charge||Cyberstalking and making false bomb threats|
|Criminal status||Sentenced to five years in prison|
Thompson was a native of St. Louis, Missouri. He attended Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and was connected to the student newspaper. However, Thompson failed to graduate. He was a summer intern with DNAinfo Chicago and an intern for a WBEZ talk show for four months.
In November 2016, Thompson announced plans to run for mayor of St. Louis, but failed to raise money in an online campaign, only raising $25 from a single donation.
Reporting scandal and termination from The Intercept
Thompson was a staff reporter for The Intercept, but was fired in February 2016 for fabricating quotes and attributions in news articles. This included a false claim, purportedly made by a cousin of Dylann Roof, that Roof was motivated to commit the Charleston church shooting because a former love interest chose black men over Roof. A note from editor Betsy Reed indicated that Thompson had been fired recently after his editors discovered "a pattern of deception" in his reporting. According to Reed, he had "fabricated several quotes in his stories and created fake email accounts that he used to impersonate people, one of which was a Gmail account in my name".
The site's investigation into Thompson's reporting had found that he had, on multiple occasions, attributed quotes to people who said he had not interviewed them or did not remember him doing so, people whom they could not reach to verify the quote or whose identity could not be confirmed. In the retracted story, Roof's family said they did not know of a cousin whom Thompson had quoted as saying Roof's interest in white supremacy took off after a woman to whom he was attracted began dating a black man. He also used "quotes that we cannot verify from unnamed people whom he claimed to have encountered at public events". To prevent his fabrications from being discovered, she continued, he lied to editors about how he had gotten the quotes, and in one case created an email account in the name of one of his sources. When editors discovered his actions, she added, he stood by his published work and, while admitting to creating the email accounts, refused to assist in the review otherwise.
In an email to Reed he shared with various news outlets, Thompson said he was being treated for testicular cancer and for that reason had not had access to his notes when the site had asked to review them. He explained his methods as "writing drafts of stories, placing the names of [people] I wanted to get quotes from in there, and then going to fetch the quotes ... If I couldn't obtain a quote from the person I wanted, I went somewhere else, and must've forgot to change the names—clearly." While he admitted this was "sloppy", he faulted The Intercept for lacking "a sustained and competent editor to guide me," alluding to the site's managerial turnovers. He also claimed that the greater problem was racism in the media field, that he made up pseudonyms for some of his sources because they were "poor black people who didn't want their names in the public given the situations" and who would not have spoken with a reporter otherwise, and that he had felt a need to "exaggerate my personal shit in order to prove my worth" at The Intercept given incidents of racial bias he said he had witnessed there. When Gawker published his email, Reed said those allegations had not been in the version he sent her.
After the note was published, the site amended Thompson's online biography when an editor at a Chicago public radio station said that while Thompson had indeed worked there, he had no involvement in the station's news reporting as he had claimed. His past tenure at DNAinfo in Chicago, where one editor tweeted in response to the story that she could have seen it coming, was also edited out.
He was fired by The Intercept in early 2016, and according to Reed, did not cooperate into the investigation of his actions.
Following his termination from The Intercept, a reporter from The Riverfront Times documented Thompson's history of ethical breaches in his job. This reportedly prompted Thompson to harass the reporter. He first attempted to get him fired, then set up a series of fake social media accounts in which he claimed the reporter was a rapist. The accounts were later shut down by investigators.
On July 7, 2016, Thompson posted a 5,000-word essay in which he ranted against what he claimed to be "[t]he white New York media" and claimed The Intercept had launched a racist smear campaign against him. In 2017, he had been working as communications director for a small, St. Louis-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping the homeless.
Cyberstalking and bomb threats
In 2016, after Thompson's girlfriend broke up with him, he began harassing her and making bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers to get revenge on her. According to officials, Thompson phoned in and emailed many of the threats under his ex-girlfriend's name in an effort to frame her. Thompson also made at least one threat under his own name, under the pretense that his ex-girlfriend was framing him. He had also emailed the Anti-Defamation League in his own name in late February 2017, pointing to his ex-girlfriend as the perpetrator of all of the bomb threats.
Thompson was arrested in March 2017 by the FBI in St. Louis for allegedly making bomb threats against at least eight Jewish community centers. He was also charged with one count of cyberstalking. He was extradited to New York and appeared in Manhattan federal court on March 29, where his public defender declined to seek bail.
On April 10, Thompson pleaded not guilty to the charge of cyberstalking. He was scheduled to reappear in court on May 18. On June 13, Thompson pleaded guilty to one count of cyberstalking and one count of sending bomb threats to Jewish community centers. In December 2017, he was sentenced to five years in prison.
- Ramey, Corinne; West, Melanie Grayce (3 March 2017). "Man Arrested in Threats Against Jewish Institutions". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- "Judge weighs whether St. Louis man accused of threats to Jewish centers will stay in jail". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 8 March 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
- Murphy, Doyle (3 March 2017). "Before Bomb Threats, Juan Thompson Unraveled — and Terrorized an RFT Reporter". Riverfront Times. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- "Neighborhood News". DNAInfo.com. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- Miner, Michael (3 March 2017). "Former 'reporter' Juan Thompson arrested and accused of threatening JCCs". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- "Before his arrest in threats to Jewish groups, suspect fumed at racism". Reuters. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
- Reed, Betsy (2 February 2016). "A Note to Readers". The Intercept. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
- Holleman, Joe (3 February 2016). "Reporter/St. Louis native fired for 'pattern of deception' at online news site". St. Louis Today. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- Murphy, Doyle (3 February 2016). "Juan Thompson, Who Chronicled Tough St. Louis Background for National Media, Fired in Fabrication Scandal". Riverfront Times. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- Murphy, Doyle (19 September 2016). "Disgraced Reporter Juan Thompson Hired, Fired From New Writing Job". Riverfront Times. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- "Retracted: Dylann Roof's Cousin Claims Love Interest Chose Black Man Over Him". The Intercept. 19 June 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
- Thompson, Juan (18 June 2015). "Dylan Roof's Cousin Claims Love Interest Chose Black Man Over Him". The Intercept. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
- Trotter, J.K. (2 February 2016). "Reporter Fabricated Quotes, Invented Sources at The Intercept". Gawker. Archived from the original on 9 April 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
- Wong, Julia Carrie (February 2, 2016). "The Intercept admits reporter fabricated stories and quotes". The Guardian. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
- "Juan Thompson Wrote About St. Louis for the National Media. But Were Any of His Stories True?". Riverfront Times. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- Stephen Rex Brown (December 20, 2017). "Juan Thompson gets five years in prison for Jewish Community Center threats, revenge plot against ex". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2018-01-29.
- "Missouri Man Arrested After Allegedly Threatening Jewish Centers in Ex-Girlfriend's Name". TIME. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- "What to Know About Juan Thompson, Accused of Threatening Jews to Frame His Ex". TIME. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- Weiser, Benjamin (3 March 2017). "Ex-Reporter Charged With Making Bomb Threats Against Jewish Sites". NY Times. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- Mark Berman and Matt Zapotosky (March 3, 2017). "Former journalist arrested, charged with threats against Jewish facilities". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
- "Suspect in threats against Jewish groups appears in U.S. court". Reuters. 29 March 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
- "Ex-journalist pleads not guilty to threatening U.S. Jewish groups". Reuters. 10 April 2017. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
- Courtney Connley (June 13, 2017). "Disgraced former journalist Juan Thompson pleads guilty to cyberstalking, anti-Semitic threats in revenge against ex". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
- Bekiempis, Victoria (June 13, 2017). "Juan Thompson pleads guilty to anti-Semitic bomb threats". New York Daily News. Retrieved August 11, 2017.