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California man who vowed to bomb Merriam-Webster over gender-inclusive entries pleads guilty

Jeremy David Hanson, 34, was unhappy with the dictionary entries for "woman," "girl," and "female," saying, "There is no such thing as 'gender identity.'"
Merriam-Webster, Inc. in Springfield, Mass.
Merriam-Webster, Inc. in Springfield, Massachusetts.Google Maps

A man who expressed hatred for the Merriam-Webster dictionary's evolving definitions of gender pronouns and adjectives has pleaded guilty to making threats, prosecutors said this week.

Jeremy David Hanson, 34, of Rossmoor, California, used the Merriam-Webster website's comments and contact functions to send multiple threatening messages roughly one year ago, prosecutors said.

Hanson admitted to making the threats in writing as part of a plea agreement Wednesday, prosecutors said. He told the court he often chose the targets of his messages based on their gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

“Every member of our community has a right to live and exist authentically as themselves without fear,” U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins said in a statement Wednesday. “Hate motivated threats of violence that infringe upon that right are not tolerated in Massachusetts in any capacity.”

Examples of his threats cited by the U.S. Attorney's Office appeared to show escalating anger on Hanson's part. He initially posted a comment Oct. 2, 2021 that decried the dictionary's definition of "female" as "anti-science propaganda."

The online version of the Merriam-Webster entry for the adjective states, in part: "Having a gender identity that is the opposite of male."

"It is absolutely sickening that Merriam-Webster now tells blatant lies and promotes anti-science propaganda," Hanson said. "There is no such thing as ‘gender identity.’ The imbecile who wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot.”

According to prosecutors, Hanson also sent a message through the site's contact portal: "It would be poetic justice to have someone storm your offices and shoot up the place, leaving none of you commies alive."

Prosecutors said on Oct. 8, he followed up with threats to "shoot up and bomb" the Merriam-Webster's offices.

The company is based in Springfield, Massachusetts, about 90 miles west of Boston. Authorities said Hanson's threats were chilling enough to inspire the publisher to shut down its offices in Springfield and New York City for five days.

Prosecutors said also admitted to sending similar missives to other recipients, including the president of the University of North Texas, the Walt Disney Co., Hasbro, Inc. in Rhode Island, the governor of California, the mayor of New York City, the ACLU, Amnesty International, a New York rabbi, and two professors at Loyola Marymount University.

An affidavit filed by an FBI agent to support Hanson's arrest warrant indicated he was livid over toymaker Hasbro's announcement last year it would deemphasize "Mr." and "Mrs." for its Potato Head line.

"Mr. Potato head is male," he wrote through an online system for consumer feedback, the affidavit said.

An FBI agent interviewed Hanson's mother, who said she supervises him. She told the agent Hanson faced stress from the pandemic, grappled with changes from a new regimen of medication and had developmental disorders, according to the document.

The filing reported that Hanson expressed regret and remorse over the threats.

Hanson was arrested April 20 and released the same day on $25,000 bond and conditions that included a location monitor, according to court documents. A federal grand jury indicted him May 5. Rossmoor, where Hanson lived, is a community in northwestern Orange County, just southeast of the Los Angeles County line.

He pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of communicating threats across state lines, one for the Merriam-Webster messages and another for threats sent to the president of the University of North Texas, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Hanson’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 5. Hanson could face up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000, for each of the two counts.