SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A man who threatened to commit anti-LGBTQ violence against Merriam-Webster, causing their offices to close, has pleaded guilty in federal court.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, 34-year-old Jeremy David Hanson of Rossmoor, California pleaded guilty in Springfield federal court to one count of interstate communication of threatening communications to commit violence against the employees of Merriam-Webster, and another count charging the same offense, filed in the Eastern District of Texas, targeting the President of the University of North Texas.
In a written statement, Hanson also admitted to threatening various corporations and politicians including Walt Disney Co., the Governor of California, the mayor of New York City, a New York rabbi and professors at Loyola Marymount University. Hanson admitted that he targeted these people because of their gender, gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
According to the charging documents, between Oct. 2 and Oct. 8, 2021, Springfield-based Merriam-Webster, Inc. received various threatening messages and comments demonstrating bias against specific gender identities submitted through its website’s “Contact Us” page and in the comments section on its webpages that corresponded to the word entries for “Girl” and “Woman.” Authorities later identified the user as Hanson.
Specifically, it is alleged that on Oct. 2, 2021, Hanson used the handle “@anonYmous” to post the following comment on the dictionary’s website definition of “female”: “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.”
As a result of the threats, the Springfield and New York City offices closed for approximately five business days.
“Every member of our community has a right to live and exist authentically as themselves without fear. 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,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “I want to remind people to call the 1-83-END-H8-NOW (1-833-634-8669) line if they have information about concerning or troubling incidents of hate, potential hate crimes, or concerns regarding individuals believed to be espousing hate-filled views or threats of actions.”
“Jeremy Hanson is now a convicted felon after admitting to making hate-fueled threats of violence related to the LGBTQ+ community,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “If you believe you are a victim or a witness to similar conduct, we encourage you to report it to the FBI so we can hold the perpetrators behind these crimes accountable for their actions, like we did in this case.”
Hanson’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 5, 2023. He faces up to five years in prison and three years of supervised release.