DETROIT- A jury has sided with a gay University of Michigan student body president in his lawsuit against a former Michigan assistant attorney general. The U.S. District Court jury decision was to order Andrew Shirvell to pay the young Michigan student, Christopher Armstrong, the lump-sum of $4.5 million dollars.
According to ABCNews.com, the lawsuit was filed due to Andrew Shirvell posting about Armstrong in an anti-gay blog. Michigan alum Shirvell stated in the “Chris Armstrong Watch” blog that Armstrong, who graduated in 2011, was “a radical homosexual activist, racist, elitist and liar.” Shirvell also accused Armstrong of enticing minors with alcohol and recruiting people to become homosexual.
Deborah Gordon, the attorney who is representing Armstrong, says that Shirvell also stated in the blog that Armstrong participated in a number of sordid activities. These activities include engaging in sex acts on a children’s playground, inside a church, and that he hosted orgies.
According to NBCNews.com, Shirvell, who represented himself in the case, said that 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.”
Armstrong accused Shirvell of defamation as well as causing emotional distress due to his actions and comments on the blog, facebook posts and during visits to the Ann Arbor campus.
Shirvell said that he saw his blog “as a movement to get” Armstrong to resign, and that he believes that he was acting well within his First Amendment rights. Shirvell tries justifying his actions by saying his statements were either true or protected because of Armstong’s role as a public figure.
Armstrong’s attorney, Deborah Gordon, stated that she would have dropped the charges against Shirvell if he apologized and retracted his previous comments. Shirvell, however, stated that this was disingenious since a multi-million dollar award wasn’t brought up until closing arguments.
Gordon stated that the jury was unable to make Shirvell apologize, so the money was the only answer.
“We needed him to retract the flat-out fabrications he had come up with about Chris,” she said. “Once he refused to take responsibility, we put it in the hands of the jury.”
Armstrong is happy with the ruling and hopes that it will deter future comments of it’s kind.
“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.”