By Brendan Pierson
(Reuters) – A former U.S. journalist pleaded not guilty on Monday to making bomb threats against Jewish organizations in the United States while posing as his ex-girlfriend in retaliation for her breaking up with him.
Juan Thompson, 32, entered his plea at a brief hearing before U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan. He is charged with one count of cyberstalking, according to a court document.
Federal prosecutors have said Thompson engaged in a vicious, months-long harassment campaign against his ex-girlfriend, using various email accounts to accuse her of possessing child pornography, driving drunk and, finally, making bomb threats targeting Jewish groups.
Thompson made some of the threats in his own name and then accused his ex-girlfriend of framing him, and made other threats posing as her, prosecutors said.
Thompson did not seek bail at the hearing. Jullian Harris, his lawyer, told reporters she could not say whether or when he might do so. He is scheduled to appear before Castel again on May 18.
Thompson was a reporter for the Intercept news website until he was fired last year for allegedly inventing sources and quotes.
He has been in police custody since his arrest in St. Louis, Missouri on March 3. Before his extradition to New York, he said he was being framed and targeted as a black man.
“Make no mistake: this is a modern-day lynching,” he said in a telephone interview from the Warren County jail in Missouri.
He said he had no anti-Semitic beliefs.
U.S. authorities have been investigating a surge of threats against Jewish organizations, including more than 100 bomb threats against community centers in dozens of states in separate waves since January.
The organizations Thompson threatened included a Jewish museum in New York and the Anti-Defamation League, according to a criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court. All occurred after the first flood of phone threats in early January.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)