A jury sided with an openly gay former University of Michigan student government president in his defamation suit against Andrew Shirvell, the former assistant Michigan attorney general who was fired for mounting a vicious campaign of anti-gay harassment against him. The jury agreed with plaintiff Chris Armstrong on all counts and awarded him a $4.5 million judgment.
The Associated Press reports Shirvell remained unrepentant:
Shirvell, who was representing himself, said the jury award was “grossly excessive” for what was “clearly protected speech … and activity.”
“This should have been thrown out,” he said, adding that he plans to appeal. “Juries give short shrift to First Amendment rights.”
Shirvell says, as he is now unemployed, “there’s no way” he “could possibly ever pay such a judgment.” Armstrong had offered to drop the case in exchange for a simple apology and retraction, but Shirvell refused, reportedly calling the offer disingenuous.
This ruling should send a message to bullies like Shirvell that free speech does not give carte blanche to harass, defame, and stalk.