Whitefish woman testifies in neo-Nazi internet troll lawsuit

AP

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Gersh

MISSOULA (AP) — A Whitefish real estate agent said Thursday she still feels the emotional and financial effects nearly three years after the publisher of a neo-Nazi website told his followers to unleash a “troll storm” on her family.

Tanya Gersh testified in U.S. District Court in Missoula Thursday as a judge considered her request to order The Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin pay her money for damages, pain and suffering and to punish the website operator.

Gersh is asking for a default judgment in the civil lawsuit after Anglin failed to appear for a deposition in April. After the hearing, Gersh and her attorney, David Dinielli of the Southern Poverty Law Center, spoke to reporters.

“I have lost my sense of safety, my security and I don’t know that I am ever going to get it back,” Gersh said. But, she added, “I refuse to let these haters define the rest of my life.”

In 2016, Anglin published a series of posts in which he accused Gersh of trying to drive the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer out of Whitefish. He published the phone numbers, email addresses and social media profiles of Gersh, her husband and son and wrote, “Are y’all ready for an old fashioned troll storm?”

Gersh, who is Jewish, said she and her family received hundreds of threatening messages, many of them anti-Semitic.

Anglin does not dispute writing the posts, but he argued unsuccessfully that he has a First Amendment right to do so and that he is not liable for his followers’ actions.

He failed to show up to testify at the April 30 deposition in New York after saying he lives outside the U.S. and believes it would be dangerous for him to return.

That prompted U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch to rule that Anglin was in default, and Thursday’s hearing was scheduled to determine the amount in damages Gersh should be awarded.

She estimates at least $1.3 million in current and future losses, said she is seeing a psychiatrist and takes anti-depressants. She is also asking for punitive damages against Anglin.

“We presented evidence from Ms. Gersh, from her therapist and from her husband demonstrating that very significant damages ought to be assessed,” said her attorney, David Dinielli of the Southern Povery Law Center.

Anglin did not appear for the hearing. The judge did not make a ruling on Thursday.

Anglin faces default judgments in at least three other federal cases, including lawsuits filed by two other alleged targets of his online trolling campaigns.

In one, a federal judge in Ohio last month awarded Muslim-American radio host Dean Obeidallah $4.1 million after Anglin falsely accused him of terrorism.

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