Courts

California Man Allegedly Sent Anti-LGBTQ Death Threats to UNT President and Dictionary Company

Hanson has been indicted in East Texas and Massachusetts.
Hanson has been indicted in East Texas and Massachusetts. Getty Images
A California man emailed death threats to University of North Texas President Neal Smatresk after a student protest against an anti-trans political candidate in early March and vowed to "start executing" left-wing students and faculty, federal authorities allege in an indictment.

Jeremy David Hanson, a 34-year-old who resides in Rossmoor, California, allegedly sent the death threats on March 3, the day after UNT students protested a campus event including a speech by Jeff Younger, a Republican candidate for the Texas Legislature.

A federal grand jury indicted Hanson on Wednesday in the Eastern District of Texas. Last month, Hanson was also indicted in Massachusetts over anti-LGBTQ death threats he had sent to Merriam-Webster Inc., the publishing company known for dictionaries and reference books.

Contacted by the Observer, Hanson's lawyer declined to comment.

“Jeremy Hanson is accused of sending numerous death threats and hate-filled messages related to the LGBTQ community, which the FBI acted swiftly to disrupt,” FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno said in a press release Thursday.

"You ought to be shot in the head and have your offices set on fire for supporting child genital mutilation and transgenderism," Hanson wrote in the subject line of an email to Smatresk, according to court documents.

"I will personally go to your university and start executing tyrannical leftist students and faculty who oppress conservatives," he allegedly continued in the email's body. "The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat."

In an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, an FBI agent said Hanson sent similar threats to Walt Disney Co., USA Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the president of the Eau Claire Area School Board in western Wisconsin.

Younger, who will face off with a Republican incumbent in a runoff later this month, prompted protests by students angry over anti-trans comments and policy proposals. (Younger lost custody of his daughter, who is trans, as part of a 2019 court decision.) His appearance had been organized by the Young Conservatives of Texas, a rightwing campus group.

“Fuck these fascists,” students chanted, to which Younger replied that “there’s no such thing as a transgender person.” (Later, as students protested Younger’s speech outside, a UNT police vehicle struck a demonstrator.)

It wasn’t the first time Hanson’s alleged threats landed him in trouble with the feds. Last October, according to a criminal complaint, Hanson had sent a bomb threat to Merriam-Webster, which prompted the dictionary company to shut down its offices in Springfield and in New York City for five days.

In a comment on the dictionary’s website definition entry for the word “female,” Hanson allegedly wrote: “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.”

Later, he sent the company additional threats through its “Contact Us” page. In those messages, he said that Merriam-Webster’s headquarters “should be shot up and bombed.” Claiming Merriam-Webster had “caved to the cultural left,” he added: “You evil Marxists should all be killed. It would be poetic justice to have someone storm your offices and shoot up the place, leaving none of you commies alive.”

He reportedly vowed to “assassinate” the dictionary’s “top editor,” writing: “I am going to shoot up and bomb your offices for lying and creating fake definitions in order to pander to the tranny mafia.”

During that investigation, the DOJ said, authorities had identified other threats Hanson allegedly made to the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Land O’ Lakes and IGN Entertainment, among others. He also allegedly threatened two Loyola Marymount University professors and a New York City-based rabbi.

The slate of cases against Hanson comes amid a spike in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes nationwide. Meanwhile, state lawmakers around the country, including here in Texas, have proposed at least 238 bills so far this year that target LGBTQ rights, according to advocates.

The Human Rights Campaign says "at least 57 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally [were] shot or killed by other violent means" in 2021, making it the deadliest year on record since it started tracking such crimes in 2013. 
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Patrick Strickland is the news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's a former senior reporter at Al Jazeera English and has reported for the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.