ROSSMOORE, Calif. - A 34-year-old Orange County man has been arrested and charged with sending threatening messages online to Merriam-Webster dictionary over the company's changing definitions of the words "girl," "woman" and "female," according to multiple reports.
Jeremy David Hanson of Rossmoor was arrested Tuesday, the OC Register reported. He appeared in federal court in California on Friday on one count of interstate communication of threats to commit violence, which carries a potential sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
Hanson was released and ordered to appear April 29 in federal court in Springfield, Mass., home of one of Merriam-Webster's offices.
He allegedly sent the messages between Oct. 2 and Oct. 8 of last year, using the "Contact Us" feature on the company's website. CNN reported that according to the federal complaint, one such message sent Oct. 2 objected to the dictionary's new definitions for the word "female."
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"It is absolutely sickening that Merriam-Webster now tells blatant lies and promotes anti-science propaganda," the alleged message read. "There is no such thing as `gender identity.' The imbecile who wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot."
Authorities said another message sent days later referred to the definition of "girl," and read: "The moron who created this fake definition should be hunted down and shot. I am sick and tired of these cultural Marxists denying science and destroying the English Language. Merriam-Webster headquarters should be shot and bombed. Boys aren't girls."
The dictionary company shut down its Springfield and New York offices for approximately five business days as a result of the alleged threats, the Register and CNN reported.
"Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but repeatedly threatening to kill people, as has been alleged, takes it to a new level," Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Joseph Bonavolonta said.
The reports also say that federal investigators discovered other online threats allegedly made by Hanson, including to two professors at Loyola Marymount University, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Land O Lakes, Hasbro Inc., IGN Entertainment, the President of the University of North Texas and a New York City rabbi. No charges have been filed in those cases yet.
According to the Register, Hanson's mother told investigators that he has development disorders, including autism, and "poses no threat to the community because he is reclusive, she supervises him and he has no access to weapons."
Merriam-Webster's first definition of "female" reads: "of, relating to, or being the sex that typically has the capacity to bear young or produce eggs." The second definition reads: "having a gender identity that is the opposite of male."
The second definition of "girl" reads: "a person whose gender identity is female."
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