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HomeNewsCity NewsOC Man Arrested After Threatening Merriam-Webster Offices

OC Man Arrested After Threatening Merriam-Webster Offices

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Jeremy David Hanson, aged 34, of Rossmoor was arrested for making violent threats toward publishing company Merriam-Webster for including references to gender identity in its online dictionary on April 19. 

Following his arrest, Hanson was charged in a federal court in Springfield, Mass., where the company is headquartered. 

“We believe Hanson sent a multitude of anonymous threatening and despicable messages related to the LGBTQ community that were intended to evoke fear and division,” U.S. attorney Rachael S. Rollins stated.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Hanson sent online threats through the Merriam-Webster website’s comment section and “Contact Us” page. He allegedly made threatening comments on the dictionary’s website with the handle @anonYmous toward references to gender identity on Oct. 2, 2021.

Under the definition of the word “female,” he posted, “It is absolutely sickening that Merriam-Webster now tells blatant lies and promotes anti-science propaganda. There is no such thing as ‘gender identity.’”

Hanson also allegedly used the “Contact Us” page to send a message that said that the company’s headquarters should be “shot up and bombed.” Mentioning the “female” definition again, he threatened violence upon members of the company’s staff. He wrote, “You evil Marxists should all be killed. It would be poetic justice to have someone storm your offices and shoot up the place, leaving none of you commies alive.”

Days later, a user believed to be Hanson threatened the company with “bomb[ing] [thei]r offices for lying.”

According to the DOJ, Merriam-Webster’s headquarters in Springfield and New York City closed for five business days due to the threats. 

Authorities were able to identify other threatening comments believed to have been made by Hanson which targeted organizations, educational institutions and companies including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Hasbro and the University of North Texas.

Hanson is charged with one count of interstate communication of threats to commit violence. If convicted, he could face a sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. 

Hanson was released after his first court appearance in California under several conditions including being prohibited from contacting the victims, travel restrictions and surrendering his passport. 

He appeared before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Katherine A. Robertson in federal court in Springfield on April 29, in which he was indicted by a federal grand jury. Hanson will reappear in federal court on May 13. 

Regarding freedom of speech, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Joseph R. Bonavolonta said that Hanson’s comments crossed a line and went beyond the bounds of protected speech when he threatened the lives of others.

“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. “Rest assured, the FBI will do everything we can to bring to justice anyone who commits these criminal acts.”

Natalia Villarreal is a City News Intern for the spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at villarn2@uci.edu.