Rossmoor man charged with threatening Merriam-Webster over definition of ‘female’

A Rossmoor man was arrested last week for allegedly sending a host of threatening messages, including to Merriam-Webster Inc., over its dictionary’s definition of the words “female,” “woman” and “girl,” according to federal authorities.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston said it charged 34-year-old Jeremy David Hanson on Tuesday, April 20, with one count of interstate communication of threats to commit violence for ominous messages he’s accused of sending the Springfield-based company between Oct. 2 and Oct. 8.

“Jeremy Hanson is accused of making hate-fueled threats of violence that crossed a line,” Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division, said in a statement. “Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but repeatedly threatening to kill people, as has been alleged, takes it to a new level.”

Prosecutors allege, for example,  that on Oct. 2, 2021, Hanson commented on the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s website under the definition of “female,” saying, “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.”

Using the screen name “@anonYmous,” he posted similar messages on the definitions of “girl” and “woman,” and used the website’s “Contact Us” page to say Merriam-Webster’s offices should be bombed, federal officials allege.

“I am going to shoot up and bomb your offices for lying and creating fake definitions … ,” one message allegedly said in part. “Boys aren’t girls, and girls aren’t boys. The only good Marxist is a dead Marxist. I will assassinate your top editor.”

In response to the threats, Merriam-Webster shut down its offices in Springfield and New York City for several days, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston.

Federal investigators tracked the IP address associated with the messages to the home of Hanson’s mother in Rossmoor, according to an affidavit attached to the charge, which was unsealed Friday.

Hanson’s mother told FBI agents that he has developmental disorders, is “fixated on transgender issues,” has the mental maturity of a teenager, and “is unable to reason through the consequences of making statements that could be construed as threats.” Hanson does not have access to weapons, she said, according to court records.

Prosecutors said FBI investigators also found “numerous related threats,” including to Hasbro, Inc. over its Potato Head toy, which was recently rebranded from Mr. Potato Head, in a move the company said was intended to promote gender equality.

“I am going to shoot up and bomb your headquarters for pandering … ,” Hanson allegedly wrote. “Mr. Potato head is male.”

Federal officials said other targets included the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, DC Comics, Land O’ Lakes, IGN Entertainment, the President of the University of North Texas, two professors at Loyola Marymount University and a New York City rabbi.

Hanson has a history of making threats online that stretches back to at least 2014, federal officials wrote in court documents. When FBI agents interviewed him back in 2015, “He repeatedly expressed remorse and indicated that he promised to refrain from sending any threatening remarks via social media or online in the future,” according to court records.

Hanson is scheduled to appear in federal court in Springfield on April 29, and is free “on conditions” in the meantime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston said.

If he’s convicted of the charge pending against him, Hanson could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, prosecutors said.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is managing editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram.
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