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And Justice For All...

Chris Armstrong Wins $4.5 Million Lawsuit Against Cyberbully Andrew Shirvell

Chris Armstrong, the openly gay University of Michigan student body president who graduated last year, has been awarded a $4.5 million settlement against former Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell, who posted a series of attacks against Armstrong on his anti-gay blog.

Shirvell accused Armstrong of “liquoring up” underage freshmen and recruiting people for his “radical homosexual agenda,” with the intent of getting Armstrong to resign from his presidential post. Armstrong claimed Shirvell caused him emotional distress and was initially only seeking $25,000, so the settlement came as a surprise.

“I’m just incredibly humbled by what happened today,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “This is truly a victory — not just for myself, but for a lot of other kids out there.”

Shirvell, who represented himself, called the $4.5 million “grossly excessive” for what was “clearly protected speech … and activity.” Shirvell plans to appeal, claiming juries give “short shrift to First Amendment rights.”

We’re not lawyers or anything, but we’re pretty sure calling someone “Satan’s representative” and claiming they had gay sex orgies in their dorm room is playing fast and loose with “free speech.”

Attorney General Mike Cox fired Shirvell in 2010, leaving him currently unemployed. Shirvell claims “there’s no way I could possibly ever pay such a judgment.”

Armstrong, for his part, had agreed to drop the case should Shirvell apologize, but Shirvell is apparently man who sticks to his convictions, not matter how absurd. An asshole*…and a man who sticks to his convictions.

*Free speech

On:           Aug 17, 2012
Tagged: , , , ,
    • DF

      Good for Mr. Armstrong. Talk about extreme cases of bullying!

      Aug 17, 2012 at 8:22 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • adam

      Actually, it’s pretty clear under the First Amendment that calling someone “Satan’s Representative” IS protected speech. To be defamation, something has to be a statement of provable/disprovable fact. Thus, a statement that he had an orgy can be defamatory, a statement that he and Satan are soulmates is not, and the latter is protected under the First Amendment

      Aug 17, 2012 at 8:28 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • zekeaz

      I’ll be just be happy to see him disbarred. Can’t imagine this guy being allowed to practice law.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 8:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Scribe37

      I am happy for the result, because no one should go through the bullying that this young man had to go through. The claims that he was liquoring up freshmen to trick them to the gay side, or the fact that he was stalked by Andrew, a grown ass state employee, is enough for me to believe the judgement was correct even though Chris won’t ever see it. Michigan has a bad record on gay rights, with mike cox ( andrew’s boss) supporting a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Couple that with the fact that our governor snyder just banned same sex health care for state employees, makes me really sad to live in this state.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 9:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • EdWoody

      What’s wrong with hosting gay orgies in your dorm room? That sounds rather fun to me.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 9:48 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MrOpposite

      “We’re not lawyers or anything”

      Indeed, you are not. This was not a settlement, this was a jury award. If it was a settlement it would be all over but the shouting. Right now Shirvell probably wishes he’d settled since Armstrong’s settlement offer was a public apology and retraction of comments. Instead Shirvell got spanked with millions of dollars in damages.

      Regarding the free speech claim, that might have merit if the only claim being pursued were defamation. However, Armstrong’s legal filing had a total of five complaints on it. In addition to the defamation claim were claims for: intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process, invasion of privacy, and stalking. In addition, the claims on the blog are also not the only defamatory claims in Armstrong’s complaint. Armstrong also filed in his complaint that Shirvell contacted his employer to convey false information. That right there will nail Shirvell on a defamation claim irrespective of whatever was claimed on the blog.

      For further reading on the claims Armstrong filed you can read the PDF here. It’s well worth it.


      Aug 17, 2012 at 9:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Woody

      Very informative, MrOpposite. Have you applied for a position as a part-time blogger for Queerty? I think they were advertising for a good writer recently…

      Aug 17, 2012 at 10:23 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MrOpposite

      Thank you Woody, but I would decline. I just know what I know because I have some intimate knowledge of this case. I’d make a lousy reporter and a lazy blogger.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 10:25 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

      in lieu of anything more learned or perspicacious this: haha ha ha haaaa aaahahahaaaa!!
      that’ll learn’ya, shirvell, you sicko closet casel!

      Aug 17, 2012 at 10:40 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • TO

      As someone who works in PR for and with notable people, I have watched this story unfold over the past couple of years and I have to be honest, I’m would be worried for Chris Armstrong’s safety is he were my client. I am sure the local authorities have thought of this and I believe at one point he did or does have a restraining order against Shirvell, which is great. In the interviews I have seen and the behavior Shirvell has exhibited that is proven to be true towards Armstrong, this man does not seem mentally stable. I am no expert on this topic and I am all for free speech, the same rights that let me call Shirvell a ding dong wack job give him the right to criticize Armstrong but this is way beyond that. I feel he’s scary and worry he might take this beyond the law because he is running out of options and has few allies. I hope hope Armstrong is being safe and very aware of this. If this happened in California where the stalking laws are much stricter Shirvell potentially could have been a lot more trouble or at least been arrested and charged a lot sooner.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 10:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Woody

      Maybe Mr. Armstrong should begin carrying a firearm for his protection.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 11:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Scott

      With $4.5 million in his pocket, he will attract a lot of admirers (including me) with the added plus of his boyish looks and gumption. He can also afford martial arts lessons, bulletproof clothing and cars and security detail. OR He can retire to a more civilized country in Europe, Canada, Uruguay or Argentina where this case absolutely confounds their precepts of acceptably behavior.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 11:43 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MikeE

      1st amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

      nothing there about suing someone for harassing you.
      the 1st amendment is ALL about the GOVERNMENT not making laws that curtail freedom of speech.
      it has f**k-all to do with being allowed to say whatever you want in public, or say anything you want about someone else.

      You CAN say what you want. And someone else can sue your ass for saying it. It has nothing to do with the 1st amendment.

      On the other hand, “don’t say gay” laws ARE counter the 1st amendment, because those are state government attempting to limit public discourse.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 11:54 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mike

      Mr. Armstrong wins all around but to me it is the principles and moral conviction that he displayed when suing Shrivell. I hope that Shrivell will now just shrivel up and fade away or maybe even show some class by doing away with himself. Shrivell is the epitome of the republicon, right-wing, conservative mind-set: an immoral cancer eating away at the American soul.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 12:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Truth Wins

      Sorry Shirvell, Never Gonna Get it.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 12:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • olen

      Shrivell clearly wants to fuck Armstrong.
      But I guess it’s Shirvell who’s now been fucked.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Snottyboy

      @adam: Calling someone Satans Rep is protected. Claiming someone is hosting orgies is NOT protected. Accusing someone publicly of activities that could lead to job dismissal, school expulsion, etc is not protected.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • startenout

      @MikeE: Thank you for putting into words what I often thought about people defending their hate speech with the Constitution. The first amendment prevents the government from sanctioning what you say, but a civil trial for harassment with a jury of your peers isn’t government involvement.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • LittIe,Kiwi

      shirvell is certifiably insane. armstrong is a wonderful young man.

      and it has nothing at all to do with “Free Speech” – but a grown adult stalking, harassing and obsessing over a college kid.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • cam

      So an assistant Attorney General doesn’t seem to understand the 1st Amendment.

      The 1st Amendment basically guarentees that the govt. won’t arrest you for speaking out against the govt.

      It NEVER said that you can’t be sued in a civil trial for Harassment and Slander.

      Also, as for the part of the post that said ”
      Since then-Attorney General Mike Cox fired Shirvell in 2010, leaving him currently unemployed,…”

      Remember, the Attorney General was defending him until the governor, and certain state reps started attacking the AG for continuing to employ him.

      The guy is an unbalanced closet case who sounds like he is going to snap soon.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt

      Good for Armstrong! We have to get rid of these homophobic bigots in elected offices: http://hulshofschmidt.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/bigot-of-the-week-award-august-17-state-representative-andy-gipson-ms/

      Aug 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • RedRoseQueen1

      Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, traducement, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image. This can be also any disparaging statement made by one person about another, which is communicated or published, whether true or false, depending on legal state. In Common Law it is usually a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).
      Free speech is protected. Libelous, defamatory speech is NOT. Therein lies the difference in this case.
      My hope is that Armstrong actually receives the awarded amount and shuts Shirvell’s pie-hole once and for all!

      Aug 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt

      @RedRoseQueen1: Yes, my worry is that Armstrong will not see any of that money.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • maxlovesrio

      So glad that Shirvell got what he deserved, but I have a question if anybody knows. Shirvell is probably broke right now, what happens if Shirvell files bankruptcy? Does that wipe out the judgement or is he going to owe Armstrong for the rest of his life?

      Aug 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hf2hvit

      Hopefully, Shirvell will soon end up like the idiot who lit the lawn on fire at General Mills

      Aug 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Raymond Saint-Pierre

      It’s all those Twinkies(not twinks)that he ate that made him say those terrible things.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Codswallop

      No, actually you CAN’T say whatever you want, at least not without consequences. That’s why we have slander and libel laws. Shirvell accused Armstrong of supplying underaged people with alcohol in order to seduce them. In case you’re unaware, supplying alcohol to a minor is a crime, and if you don’t have evidence to back it up it’s libel. Shirvell has no evidence. He accused Armstrong of trying to seduce people unto “the gay lifestyle,” an accusation which, if not criminal, is damaging. All Shirvell’s accusations were on the internet where, if unchallenged, would follow Chris Armstrong for the rest of his life.

      Shirvell followed Armstrong and took many photos of him without permission, which must have been unnerving at the very least. Would YOU like it some guy was following you around and taking pictures? He parked outside Armstrong’s residence late at night to spy on him. At a Westboro Baptist Church protest of the UofM, Andrew Shirvell sttod alongside them and waved a sign that accused Armstong of being a liar, a racist, and compared a group he belonged to with the KKK.

      What Shirvell did wasn’t a political statement against gay marriage or gay rights, it was directed personally at Chris Armstrong. Given how prim and effeminate Shervill is it’s easy to speculate that he either had a crush on CA or envied him, but that’s really beside the point. What matters is that an adult man, an Asst Attorney General for god’s sake, fixated on a college student and tried to destroy him because he’s gay.

      When this first came to public attention I was really worried about Chris Armstrong’s safety. Shirvell is unstable and delusional (he thinks his actions were reasonable). I don’t blame Armstrong for feeling like he was a legitimate threat.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 8:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cyndi Brady

      Shirvell exhibited stalking behavior, right? What purportedly “straight” man stalks a gay dude. I’m a nurse practitioner, not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I strongly suspect he ‘s like twelve kinds of kray-kray and needs to be very closely monitored.

      As for Chris Armstrong, I’d suggest he leave the US and carry a panic button until Shirvell is in a hospital, a jail, or a grave.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 10:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Norris Nordin

      @Scott: Unfortunately, we have more than a few wing-nuts in Canada too, including out Slime Minister!

      Aug 17, 2012 at 11:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JohnnyBoy

      I love that heterosexuals are starting to see that there are consequences when you fuck with gays. How they go crying about their first amendment rights when shit backfires on them. Just like with Chic-fil-A. They were crying when officials started saying they would prevent Chic-fil-A from opening new locations in their districts. Yes, you have freedom of speech and you can do whatever your little heart desires, but understand that for every action there is a consequence. Don’t go crying when you put out negative energy and it comes back to you.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 11:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt

      @Cyndi Brady: Cyndi, I always love your comments. They are spot on and witty. It is so obvious Shirvell is a closet queen: http://hulshofschmidt.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/a-bigot-broken-andrew-shirvells-just-desserts/

      Aug 18, 2012 at 10:28 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cyndi Brady

      Thank you Mr. Michael Hulshof-Schmidt: You obviously have fine taste in women (as do I! )

      And, it goes without saying that any man lucky enough to share your company and life should count his blessings. If you need me to remind him, well, I will…daily. I am relentless!

      I hope to keep reading you, and I will swoop through yr blog as soon as I can. Be well, amigo……cb

      Aug 18, 2012 at 11:41 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt

      @Cyndi Brady: Cyndi, you are absolutely delightful! I look forward to getting to know you better. My husband would love you as much as I do.

      Aug 18, 2012 at 11:53 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sansacro

      @MrOpposite: Great post. Thanks.

      Aug 18, 2012 at 3:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B

      No. 12 · Scott wrote, “With $4.5 million in his pocket, he will attract a lot of admirers (including me) with the added plus of his boyish looks and gumption.”

      It’s doubtful that he’ll get anywhere close to $4.5 million if the creep has no assets (and probably no chance of getting anything substantial).

      http://bankruptcy-law.freeadvice.com/bankruptcy-law/consumer_bankruptcy/civil_lawsuit.htm has some details as to what happens when a defendant declares bankruptcy. Also check out http://www.legallawhelp.com/bankruptcy-law/lawsuits-and-bankruptcy.html which points out that “if the lawsuit is alleging fraud, or arises out of an intentional tortious act or injury, then it is not going to be dischargeable in a bankruptcy. That means it can follow you forever or until it’s paid.” Regardless, the plaintiff’s ability to pay 4.5 million even over a lifetime can be answered by asking yourself a simple question: “Would you hire this creep?”

      Also keep in mind that the rules regarding how bankruptcy interacts with lawsuits are complicated with a number of catches (see the two URLs above) and as a lawyer by training, Andrew Shirvell is probably familiar with the details and will try for a strategy that minimizes what he has to pay. Since he is representing himself, his strategy might be simply to threaten to drag things out to the point where the amount that one could reasonably expect to collect would not cover Armstrong’s attorney’s fees (in the hopes of getting Armstrong’s attorney to give up). As long as Shirvell is unemployed or unemployable, the cost of representing himself is basically zero.

      Aug 18, 2012 at 5:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DrewSF

      This guy Chris Armstrong just wanted to get tons of money and that queen did!

      Aug 19, 2012 at 5:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B

      No. 35 · DrewSF wrote, “This guy Chris Armstrong just wanted to get tons of money and that queen did!” … a statement that is not consistent with Armstrong initially asking for only $25,000 and offering to drop the case if Shirvell apologized.

      What probably happened is that Shirvell pissed the jury off so much that the jurors decided to send him a message that he wouldn’t forget.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • startenout

      @DrewSF: He sued for $250,000 which is far from a ton, and even then said he would settle for no money and an apology. Since that was too much for a homophobe to do, the jury, rightfully, decided that Shirvell was an asshole and upped the damages by 1800%, and you’re an even bigger one for thinking it’s about the money. It’s about this young man standing up against harassment from a public official and winning. Since Shirvell is out of a job, Mr. Armstrong is likely never going to see any of that money, but he still won a great victory.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • startenout

      Oops, one zero too many in my previous post.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt

      @startenout: Thank you for inserting facts here!! He is not a gold digger! He sued for $25,000 and would have settled for an apology. Can we please not blame the victim. Startenout, thank you for stating facts and not speculation.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 6:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jeff

      @MrOpposite: You’d make a poor reporter or a lazy blogger? You would be perfect for a job at QueertY!

      Aug 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jaroslaw

      Did anyone watch the 10 minute interview Shirvell had with Anderson Cooper? It is on youtube. S is, sadly, a certified nutcase. His answers were completely illogical. I don’t excuse the crap he put Chris Armstrong through, and he should be out of public office etc. but do we hold mentally ill people to the same standards?

      Aug 19, 2012 at 10:51 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dean

      Jaroslaw-Yes it’s true that Shirvell is extremely mentally ill but so are you.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 10:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • EvonCook

      @EdWoody: YES! YES! YES! Gay orgies in my dorm room WERE great fun at my nice catholic university, and liquor DID help the frustrated, closeted gays and gave the sr8 bros an excuse the next day. The best times of my life, the liveliest and juiciest cocks and the biggest orgies! Oh, to relive those days again and again!

      Aug 20, 2012 at 10:47 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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