Southern California man charged with threatening dictionary publisher over gender definitions
BOSTON — A California man’s threats of online violence against dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster Inc. over updated gender definitions landed him in federal court in Massachusetts.
Merriam-Webster closed its main office in Springfield, Massachusetts, and another in New York for five business days last year in response to comments from Jeremy David Hanson, prosecutors said. An email seeking comment was left with a spokesperson for Merriam-Webster on Monday.
Hanson, 34, of Rossmoor, Calif., also allegedly made anti-LGBTQ threats to other organizations.
Hanson was charged last week with interstate communication of threats to commit acts of violence, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office in Boston. He is scheduled to appear in federal court Friday in Springfield.
Prosecutors say Hanson threatened to shoot and bomb the publisher, but the affidavit does not say whether any weapons or explosives were found during the investigation.
If found guilty, Hanson faces up to five years in prison.
In an interview with the FBI on October 27, Hanson said he suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, anxiety and depression, and had trouble controlling his impulses. He said he understood the threatening remarks he was making online were illegal, but he was unable to control himself. His mother said in an FBI interview in May 2021 that he did not have access to weapons.
No defense attorney is listed in the court records. A personal phone number for Hanson had been disconnected.
Prosecutors allege Hanson sent threatening messages and comments to Merriam-Webster between October 2 and October 8 using the website’s “contact us” feature and in the comments section of its web pages that corresponded to Word entries such as “girl,” “woman,” and “woman,” prosecutors said.
One definition of “woman” is “having a gender identity that is the opposite of man”.
“It is absolutely sickening that Merriam-Webster is now telling blatant lies and promoting anti-science propaganda,” Hanson wrote in a commentary, according to prosecutors. “’Gender identity’ does not exist. “
The statements were traced to an IP address linked to Hanson, the FBI said.
“Some statements expressed hostility toward different gender identities and some threatened bodily harm,” according to an FBI affidavit in the case.
The investigation identified several related threats over the past few years, prosecutors say, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Land O’ Lakes, Hasbro and the president of the University of North Texas.
“Hateful threats and intimidation have no place in our society,” U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement. “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.”