Defamation | Offensive Speech

Federal Judge Finds Neo Nazi Publisher “Acted with Actual Malice”

Computer keyboard

 

A federal magistrate judge in Montana found that Andrew Anglin, publisher of Daily Stormer, a white nationalist website, “acted with actual malice” when he shared a Jewish woman’s contact information and instructed his readers to target her.

In December 2016, Tanya Gersh became the target of a harassment campaign after the mother of white supremacist Richard Spencer published a now-deleted piece on Medium accusing Gersh of extortion. Anglin got wind of Sherry Spencer’s accusation, and published a post on Daily Stormer that included Gersh and her family’s phone numbers, email addresses, and social media handles. In that and subsequent posts, he encouraged his followers to harass the Gersh family.

“There are only 6,000 Jews in the entire state of Montana, yet they’re 100% of the people trying to silence Richard Spencer by harassing his mother,” Anglin wrote, according to The Washington Post. “So then – Let’s Hit Em Up. Are y’all ready for an old fashioned Troll Storm?” 

Since then, Gersh has received more than 700 harassing messages, including death threats and anti-Semitic slurs. Many of the threats were not only directed at her, but at her husband, her young son, and other members of the Whitefish community.

On April 18, 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Montana Missoula Division on Gersh’s behalf, accusing Anglin of initiating “an online anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation campaign against her and her family.” The suit  claimed that Anglin invaded Gersh’s privacy, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and his actions violated Montana’s Anti-Intimidation Act.

In November 2017, Anglin filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed on First Amendment grounds, but the district court denied his request. After his failed bid, Anglin failed to show up for any of the subsequent court hearings, and was a no-show for a deposition in April 2019.  

In the July 15, 2019 opinion filed by Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch, he recommended that a default judgement be entered against Anglin. He recommended that Anglin pay Gersh more than $14 million in damages for his “particularly egregious and reprehensible” conduct. Lynch also recommended that the court issue a permanent injunction ordering Anglin to remove all of the posts, images, and comments related to Gersh and her family from his website. 

Lynch’s recommendation is subject to the approval of the chief judge for the U.S. District Court in Montana.

July 15 Opinion Washington Post Missoulian


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