California Man Sentenced for Threatening Merriam-Webster with Anti-LGBTQ Violence
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Defendant’s threats caused Merriam-Webster to close offices in Springfield, Mass. and New York
BOSTON – A California man was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Springfield, Mass. for making threats to commit anti-LGBTQ violence against Springfield-based dictionary company Merriam-Webster, Inc. and others.
Jeremy David Hanson, 34, of Rossmoor, Calif., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni to one year and one day in prison and three years of supervised release. In September 2022, Hanson pleaded guilty to one count of interstate communication of threatening communications to commit violence against the employees of Merriam-Webster, and to another count charging the same offense, initially filed in the Eastern District of Texas, targeting the President of the University of North Texas.
As part of his plea agreement, Hanson also admitted to sending threatening communications to various corporations, politicians, and others, including the Walt Disney Co., the Governor of California, the Mayor of New York City, a New York rabbi and professors at Loyola Marymount University. Many of these threatening communications specified the race, gender, gender identity and/or sexual orientation of various persons. Hanson persisted in his communications in spite of repeated interactions with law enforcement officers.
“Hate has no place in Massachusetts. Every person has a right to live their life authentically and without fear. I hope today’s sentence will demonstrate to members of the LGBTQ+ community that this office will hold those who engage in threatening, hateful acts accountable. Mr. Hanson made numerous, anonymous hate-fueled threats of violence to intimidate and instill fear. Hateful and bigoted acts, even if only spoken like those committed by Mr. Hanson, terrorize communities and are destructive to our society,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “Hate motivated acts of any kind will never be tolerated in our Commonwealth and perpetrators – including those who think they can hide behind a keyboard need to know we will find you and prosecute you. Members of the public are strongly encouraged 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 threats.”
“Despite repeated interactions with law enforcement directing Jeremy Hanson to stop his hateful tirades threatening violence, he continued to make them. In doing so, his bias against the LGBTQ+ community instilled real fear and safety concerns, causing Merriam-Webster to close its offices in Springfield and New York City for almost five days,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Today’s sentence cannot undo the damage Hanson did, but it can provide some comfort in knowing that threats to life are not protected free speech but criminal acts, and the FBI and our partners will vigorously pursue those who commit them. If you are a victim or witness to similar conduct, we’d ask you to report it to us by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or submitting a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.”
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, 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.” That same day, Hanson also sent threatening messages via the website’s “Contact Us” page.
On Oct. 8, 2021, Hanson posted another threatening comment on the dictionary’s website and a threatening message via the “Contact Us” page that read: “I am going to shoot up and bomb your offices for lying and creating fake definitions in order to pander to the tranny mafia. Boys aren’t girls, and girls aren’t boys. The only good Marxist is a dead Marxist. I will assassinate your top editor. You sickening, vile tranny freaks.” As a result of the threats, Merriam-Webster temporarily closed its offices in Springfield, Mass. and New York City.
In addition, on March 3, 2022, Hanson sent a threatening email to the President of the University of North Texas. The title of the email read: “You ought to be shot in the head and have your offices set on fire for supporting child genital mutilation and transgenderism.” The body of the email read: “YOU LEFTIST FREAKS are the intolerant ones. Trannies are disgusting PERVERTS. Every single tranny freak should be gassed, along with their supporters. I will personally go to your university and start executing tyrannical leftist students and faculty who oppress conservatives. The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”
In August 2022, U.S. Attorney Rollins announced the creation of the “End Hate Now” hotline - 1-83-END-H8-NOW (1-833-634-8669) - for reporting hate-based incidents or potential criminal activity. Massachusetts residents and visitors are encouraged to call the hotline to report concerning or troubling incidents of hate, potential hate crimes, or concerns regarding individuals believed to be espousing the hate-filled views or actions we learn of far too often in the wake of mass shootings and/or acts of hate-based violent extremism. Callers are encouraged to leave their contact information but may remain anonymous. At this time, the hotline is available in English, Spanish, Cantonese and French.
U.S. Attorney Rollins and FBI SAC Bonavolonta made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow of Rollins’ Springfield Branch Office prosecuted the case.
Updated April 14, 2023