U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen’s ruling today adopts a recommendation last month from Federal Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch, which means that Andrew Anglin, publisher of the Daily Stormer website, must now pay punitive and actual damages to Tanya Gersh of Whitefish, Montana.
“By adopting Judge Lynch’s recommendation, Judge Christensen today made clear that this type of conduct will not be tolerated and that those who engage in it will have to pay up,” said David Dinielli, deputy legal director of the SPLC. “We will go to the ends of the Earth to collect the judgment on behalf of our client, Tanya Gersh, whether it’s cash, assets or intellectual property.”
Gersh said the ruling is a victory against hatred.
“This win isn’t just for me, my family and my community; this is a win for everyone who has been harassed, terrorized and bullied,” she said. “With the strong support of my family, the Whitefish community, the people of Montana and the Jewish community around the world, I had the strength to stand up and fight against Andrew Anglin and I defeated him and his hatred.
“Even though I don’t like to admit that what he did broke a part of me, I am now a stronger person for it. Don’t be afraid to take a stand against hatred and don’t let hateful people define who you are. We will not let them win.”
The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit in April 2017 on Gersh’s behalf in conjunction with the law firm of Morrison, Sherwood, Wilson, & Deola. The lawsuit described how Anglin used the Daily Stormer – the leading extremist website in the country – to publish 30 articles urging his followers to launch a “troll storm” against Gersh.
Gersh, her husband and then-12-year-old son received more than 700 harassing messages between December 2016 and April 2017, when the complaint was filed. She has continued to receive harassing and threatening messages in the two and a half years since the initial onslaught.
The campaign escalated to the point that in early 2017, Anglin planned an armed march in Whitefish that he threatened would end at Gersh’s home. Anglin promoted the march – which never materialized – with an image that superimposed Gersh, her son and two other Jewish residents on a picture of the front gate of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
The threats have taken an emotional and physical toll on Gersh. Over the past two and a half years, she has continued to experience panic attacks and is afraid to answer the phone. At times, she still goes to bed in tears and wakes up crying without explanation. She also feels anxiety in crowds. She has been prescribed medication and has sought other treatment, including trauma therapy.
In May 2018, Lynch ordered that the SPLC’s lawsuit against Anglin be allowed to go forward, rejecting Anglin’s claim that his orchestration of a terror campaign against a Jewish woman was protected by the First Amendment. In November 2018, Christensen accepted this recommendation, ruling against Anglin and allowing the case to continue moving forward.
During an evidentiary hearing on July 11, the SPLC presented its arguments on damages and emotional distress through witnesses, including Gersh, her husband and one of her therapists. The evidence detailed how the attacks and threats on Gersh, her family and the Whitefish community have had an extreme and life-changing impact on all of their lives.
In his findings, Lynch said that based on the testimony presented at the evidentiary hearing, Gersh is entitled to:
- Economic damages in the amount of $220,680 for past lost earnings, medical expenses, and other expenses.
- Economic damages in the amount of $821,758 for future lost earning capacity.
- Non-economic damages in the amount of $1 million for past pain and suffering.
- Non-economic damages in the amount of $2 million for future pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
In addition to those damages, Lynch found in his ruling that Anglin acted with actual malice and, “Having considered the factors set forth in Mont. Code Ann. § 27-1- 221(7)(b), including the particularly egregious and reprehensible nature of Anglin’s conduct, the Court finds that a punitive damages award in the amount of $10,000,000 is warranted to punish Anglin and deter him from engaging in such conduct in the future.”
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