Judge recommends $14M award to neo-Nazi trolling victim | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Judge recommends $14M award to neo-Nazi trolling victim

Associated Press
1417170_web1_1417170-f4b36ba8700c41f39a18b73a9d44b7e9
Ben Allen | The Missoulian

HELENA, Mont. — The publisher of a neo-Nazi website should have to pay the victim of an internet trolling campaign over $14 million and remove all posts that encouraged his readers to contact the Montana real estate agent, a magistrate judge recommended Monday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch called The Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin’s behavior reprehensible and atrocious in telling his internet followers to unleash a “troll storm” on Tanya Gersh, her husband and her 12-year-old son in 2016.

The magistrate judge doesn’t have the final word in the case. His findings and recommendations must be approved by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen to take effect.

Gersh, whom Anglin accused of trying to run white nationalist Richard Spencer’s mother out of the mountain resort community of Whitefish, said her family received hundreds of threatening, harassing and anti-Semitic messages. She sued Anglin, who argued unsuccessfully through his attorneys that his writings were protected by the First Amendment.

Anglin, who lives outside the U.S., was found in default when he didn’t show up for a deposition scheduled in April. His attorneys withdrew from the case when he failed to appear.

Lynch said Gersh deserves $10 million in punitive damages, the maximum amount in punitive damages allowed under Montana law, because of the “particularly egregious and reprehensible nature of Anglin’s conduct.” He also said she should be awarded $4 million more for lost earnings and pain and suffering.

Plus, the court should issue a permanent injunction ordering Anglin to remove the posts and photos because “the atrocious conduct directed at Gersh and her family has not entirely abated,” Lynch wrote.

Even if Christensen approves Lynch’s recommendations, it’s questionable whether Gersh will see a dime if Anglin remains outside the reach of U.S. authorities.

But that’s not the point, said her attorney, David Dinielli of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“The significance is not in whether we will collect the money,” Dinielli said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press. “The significance is that Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent from a small town in Montana, stood up to fight the most notorious neo-Nazi on the web, and she won.”

Gersh said in a statement that Lynch’s recommendation is a clear message to extremists that nobody should be terrorized for simply being who they are.

“This lawsuit has always been about stopping others from enduring the terror I continue to live through at the hands of a neo-Nazi and his followers, and I wanted to make sure that this never happens to anyone else,” she said.

Anglin did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

He faces default judgments in at least three other federal cases, including lawsuits filed by two other alleged targets of his online trolling campaigns.

In one, a federal judge in Ohio last month awarded Muslim-American radio host Dean Obeidallah $4.1 million after Anglin falsely accused him of terrorism.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.