(KTLA) — A California man was arrested last week for allegedly threatening Merriam-Webster for including references to gender identity in his online dictionary.
Jeremy David Hanson, 34, of Rossmoor was arrested on Tuesday and charged in federal court in Springfield, Massachusetts, where the dictionary company is headquartered.
Hanson is accused of sending numerous online threats to the company via the website’s comments section and contact page, according to the US Department of Justice.
In October 2021, Hanson allegedly used the handle “@anonYmous” to make threatening comments on the Merriam-Webster website for entries that included references to gender identity, including “woman” and “girl”. Among those threatening comments was the username posted under the definition of “female”: “It is absolutely sickening that Merriam-Webster is now telling blatant lies and promoting anti-science propaganda. There is no “gender identity”.
The California man is also accused of using the ‘Contact Us’ page to send a threatening message saying the company’s headquarters should be ‘shot down and bombed’. In this post, Hanson again referenced the definition of “woman” as he wished for violence against company staff members. “You evil Marxists should all be killed,” Hanson reportedly wrote under the pseudonym. “It would be poetic justice for someone to storm your offices and shoot down the place, leaving none of you alive.”
A few days later, another message from a user believed to be Hanson referenced threats to “bomb your offices for lying.”
The particular messages targeting Merriam-Webster’s corporate headquarters prompted the company to close its Springfield and New York offices for five business days, the DOJ said.
Authorities were notified of the threatening messages, leading to Hanson being identified as the person believed to have sent the online threats and using the pseudonym to leave the comments.
Through the investigation, authorities were also able to identify numerous other threatening comments and messages allegedly made by Hanson, which targeted the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Land O’ Lakes, Hasbro, IGN Entertainment, l University of North Texas, professors at Loyola Marymount University and rabbi in New York.
“Hateful threats and intimidation have no place in our society,” U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins said in a press release. “We believe Hanson sent a slew of threatening and despicable anonymous messages related to the LGBTQ community that were intended to evoke fear and division. My office and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate threats against members of our communities, no matter what corner of the internet they come from.
Hanson was charged with an interstate communications count of threats to commit acts of violence. According to the Justice Department, a conviction could result in a five-year prison sentence, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the Boston Division of the FBI, said that while everyone has the right to express their opinions, Hanson’s comments crossed a line and went beyond the boundaries of speech protected when he threatened the lives of others.
“We will always prosecute individuals who attempt to intimidate and isolate members of our community by inciting violent and hateful acts. Threats to life are certainly not protected speech and they cause real fear in victims,” Bonavolonta said.
Hanson was released after his first appearance in federal court in California’s Central Division. He is due to appear in a Massachusetts court on Friday.
In the meantime, anyone or organizations who believe they have been threatened by Hanson are urged to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at 888-221-6023.