Thursday, July 7, 2022

California man accused of threatening dictionary publisher

BOSTON ( Associated Press) — A California man’s online threat of violence against dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster Inc. over updated gender definitions has landed him in Massachusetts federal court.

Prosecutors said Merriam-Webster closed its main offices in Springfield, Massachusetts and New York City for five business days last year in response to comments from Jeremy David Hanson. An email seeking comment was dropped on Monday with a Merriam-Webster spokesperson.

Hanson, 34, of Rossmoor, California, also allegedly made anti-LGBTQ threats to other organizations.

Hanson was charged last week with interstate communications of threats to commit violence, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s office in Boston. He is due to appear in federal court in Springfield on Friday.

Prosecutors say Hanson threatened to shoot and bomb the publisher, although the affidavit did not say whether any weapons or explosives were found during the investigation.

If convicted, Hanson faces up to five years in prison.

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In an interview with the FBI on October 27, Hanson stated that he has obsessive-compulsive disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, anxiety and depression, and struggles with impulse control. He said he understands that the threatening comments he makes online are illegal, but is unable to control himself. His mother said in an interview to the FBI in May 2021 that she did not have access to weapons.

There is no defense attorney listed in court records. A home phone number was hacked for Hanson.

Prosecutors say Hanson threatened Merriam-Webster in the comments section on their webpages between October 2 and October 8, using the website’s “contact us” function and corresponding word entries such as “girl,” “woman.” Sent messages and comments. And “female,” prosecutors said.

One definition of “female” is “having a gender identity that is the opposite of male.”

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According to prosecutors, Hanson wrote in a comment, “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 FBI said the statements were traced to an IP address linked to Hanson.

According to an FBI affidavit in the case, “some statements expressed hostility toward different gender identities and some threatened people with physical harm.”

According to prosecutors, the investigation identified several related threats over the years, including those from the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Land O’ Lakes, Hasbro and the president of the University of North Texas.

“Hate threats and threats have no place in our society,” US Attorney Rachel Rollins said in a statement. “We believe that Hanson sent a number of anonymous, threatening and hateful messages related to the LGBTQ community intended to create fear and division.”

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