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Topics In the News
Jury Orders Andrew Shirvell to Pay $4.5M in Damages to Chris Armstrong
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 08/16/12
Last updated on: 08/19/12
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Chris Armstrong in an interview on CNN.

A jury has awarded Chris Armstrong, former University of Michigan student body president, $4.5 million in his lawsuit against Andrew Shirvell, a former Michigan assistant attorney general who libeled him in an anti-gay blog.

Armstrong, the first openly gay president of the University of Michigan student body, made national headlines in 2010 when he was stalked and bullied by an assistant attorney general, Andrew Shirvell, who established a blog called "Chris Armstrong Watch" in which he relentlessly attacked Armstrong. Shirvell alleged that Armstrong was promoting a "radical homosexual agenda." He called him "nazi like," a recruiter for "the cult that is homosexuality," a "privileged pervert," and a proponent of a "racist, anti-Christian agenda."

Shirvell, a University of Michigan alumnus, also showed up at public meetings to denounce Armstrong and was seen photographing Armstrong's home in the wee hours of the morning. In addition, he called the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with whom Armstrong served an internship, to slander him.

In the face of these attacks in September 2010, Armstrong told a student government meeting that "I will not back down. I will not flinch. I will not falter. I will not succumb to any unwarranted attacks. What I will do is I will carry on with the utmost pride and vindication."

Soon after the harassment became news, Shirvell was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on AC 360. The reaction to that interview sparked a national outcry against Shirvell and calls that he be fired from his job as Assistant Attorney General of the state of Michigan.

At first, conservative Attorney General Mike Cox defended his employee, who had worked on his campaign, saying that he was exercising his right of free speech; but as demands for action increased, he announced an investigation into Shirvell's activities. On November 8, 2010, he fired Shirvell for having "repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior, and [having] inappropriately used state resources."

Cox said that Shirvell lied to investigators "on several occasions during his disciplinary hearing." Although Shirvell was not charged with stalking, the Attorney General's report said that Shirvell behaved in a way that "was harassing, uninvited and showed a pattern that was, in the everyday sense, stalking."

Armstrong filed suit against Shirvell for defamation and also lodged a complaint against him with the Michigan Bar Association.

In his lawsuit, Armstrong claimed that Shirvell inflicted intentional emotional harm, defamed him, invaded his privacy, and stalked him. He asked for $25,000 in compensatory damages for defamation of character, as well as punitive damages.

Armstrong also offered to drop the lawsuit if Shirvell apologized.

On August 16, 2012, after a week-long trial in which Shirvell represented himself, including posing questions to himself, the jury awarded Armstrong $4.5 million in punitive damages, as reported by the Detroit Free Press.

In November 2011, Armstrong and his family established a scholarship at the University of Michigan for students who had been bullied. They made the announcement at a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the University of Michigan's Spectrum Center, the first glbtq support office at an American university. More information about the scholarship may be found here.

Armstrong has announced that he intends to donate the award he received as a result of the lawsuit to the scholarship fund.

Below is Anderson Cooper's September 2010 interview of Shirvell, which prompted outrage against his bullying of Armstrong.

In October 2010, Chris Armstrong spoke with Cooper.

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