Former Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell has been ordered to pay $4.5 million for defaming a gay student at the University of Michigan. You might remember Shirvell was fired in 2010 when it came to light that he had been tormenting the president of the student assembly, Chris Armstrong, via blog posts.
Shirvell launched false—and often lewd—accusations on a website named “Chris Armstrong Watch,” claiming the student used his position of power to promote a “radical homosexual agenda” while seducing incoming students and hosting gay orgies in his dorm room. Shirvell featured a photo of Armstrong with a swastika over his face, calling him ”Satan’s representative on the student assembly” and a “privileged pervert.” In reality, Armstrong had campaigned to stop tuition hikes and expand gender-neutral housing to transgendered students, winning the election in a landslide.
Also accused of stalking, Shirvell claimed he was just exercising his First Amendment right to free speech and protected because Armstrong was a public figure. In a civil suit, Armstrong sought just $25,000 in damages. Published reports state that Armstrong would have dropped the case if Shirvell had only apologized. He didn’t.