A California man who threatened violence against Merriam-Webster, Inc. for its gender definitions pleaded guilty in a Massachusetts federal court, the Justice Department said in a press release. Jeremy David Hanson, of Rossmoor, was charged with one count of interstate communication of threatening communications to commit violence.
The 34-year-old sent “various threatening messages and comments demonstrating bias against specific gender identities” to Merriam-Webster, Inc., which is based in Springfield, Massachusetts, in early October 2021, according to the DOJ. In addition to sending in threats via the “Contact Us” page, Hanson also allegedly left threatening messages in the comments sections on its pages that corresponded to the word entries for “girl” and “woman.”
In a comment on Oct. 2, 2021, Hanson, under the username @anonYmous, wrote: “It is absolutely sickening that Merriam-Webster now tells blatant lies and promotes anti-science propaganda. There is no such thing as ‘gender identity.’ The imbecile who wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot.”
Days later, Hanson wrote in the corporation’s “Contact Us” page that he was “going to shoot up and bomb” their offices.
Responding to the threats, Merriam-Webster closed its Springfield and New York City offices for five business days, the DOJ said.
Hanson was, and later indicted by a federal grand jury on May 5.
Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, said Hanson’s alleged threats “crossed a line.”
“Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but repeatedly threatening to kill people, as has been alleged, takes it to a new level,” Bonavolonta said in a statement at the time of his arrest. “Threats to life are most certainly not protected speech and they cause real fear in victims.”
These were not the only threats he made, according to the DOJ.
Hanson was also charged with the same crime in the Eastern District of Texas for allegedly targeting the president of the University of North Texas, the DOJ said. While entering his guilty plea in Massachusetts, Hanson admitted in a written statement to threatening other corporations, as well as politicians and individuals, the DOJ said. His targets allegedly included Walt Disney Co., the governor of California, the mayor of New York city, a New York rabbi and professors at Loyola Marymount University.
“Hanson also admitted that he frequently selected the object of his threatening communications because of the gender, gender identity and/or sexual orientation of various persons,” the DOJ said.
His sentencing his scheduled for Jan. 5, 2023. Hanson faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, the DOJ said.
“Every member of our community has a right to live and exist authentically as themselves without fear,” U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins said in a statement. “Hate motivated threats of violence that infringe upon that right are not tolerated in Massachusetts in any capacity. This conviction represents my office’s dedication to protecting targeted communities and bringing accountability and justice when those who aim to endanger act upon their hatred.”