A California man was arrested this week on charges that he sent messages to Merriam-Webster threatening to shoot and bomb his offices for disliking the company’s dictionary definitions regarding gender identity, authorities said.
The man, Jeremy David Hanson of Rossmoor, California, who was arrested in California on Tuesday, threatened to kill every employee of the Massachusetts-based company, the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Friday.
He was charged with one count of interstate communications of threats of violence and was released on parole in California, the statement said. He will appear in Massachusetts court on April 29.
From October 2-8, 2021, Mr. Hanson, 34, sent anonymous comments and messages to Merriam-Webster, which publishes a widely used online dictionary, condemning the company for changing its definitions of words, including “boy,” “girl.” “” and “trans woman,” according to an affidavit filed this month by an FBI agent.
“There is no such thing as ‘gender identity,'” he wrote in a comment on the definition of ‘female’. “The imbecile who wrote this message should be hunted and shot.”
One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of feminine is “having a gender identity that is the opposite of masculine.”
Mr Hanson escalated his threats from there, sending messages saying that the company’s headquarters “should be shelled and bombed,” the statement said. He wrote that by changing certain gender-based definitions, the company was participating in efforts to “degrade the English language and deny reality.”
In October, Merriam-Webster reported the threats to the FBI, which tracked Mr. Hanson through his IP address, the agency’s affidavit said. Due to the threats, the company has closed its offices in Springfield, Massachusetts and New York for five days, prosecutors said.
It was not clear whether Mr Hanson had a lawyer. Messages left on a phone number listed Friday night under his name were not returned immediately.
His mother told investigators her son had autism and was “fixed on transgender issues,” the affidavit said.
In recent years, Merriam-Webster, the nation’s oldest dictionary publisher, has updated certain definitions to reflect changing views on gender.
Company representatives did not immediately return emails or phone calls seeking comment Friday night.
“Hate-filled threats and intimidation have no place in our society,” Rachael S. Rollins, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said in the statement.
Prosecutors said that while investigating Mr Hanson’s reports, they found threats he believed he made to the American Civil Liberties Union, Hasbro, Land O’Lakes, a New York rabbi, and others. He used the word “Marxist” repeatedly, they said.
In the statement from the US law firm, Joseph R. Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the Boston division of the FBI, said Mr. Hanson’s threats “crossed a line.”
“Everyone has the right to express their opinion,” said Mr Bonavolonta. “But repeated threats of killing people, as alleged, takes it to a new level.”