When former University of Michigan Student Body President Chris Armstrong couldn’t get an apology from Andrew Shirvell for engaging in a one-man, anti-gay campaign against him in 2010, he sued.
Armstrong was seeking $25,000 in damages from Shirvell, a one-time assistant attorney general for the state. But a jury in U.S. District Court on Thursday (16 August) decided he deserved much more: $4.5 million.
The former student, who graduated in 2011, accused Shirvell of defamation and causing him emotional distress. He had offered to drop the lawsuit if Shirvell apologized but he refused.
In March, a state hearing officer in Michigan ruled that Shirvell was justly fired in 2010 for his harassment of Armstrong which included engaging in ‘hate speech’ on a blog and ‘physical and mental harassment’ of Armstrong.
He did such things as show up at public events to condemn what he called Armstrong’s ‘radical homosexual agenda.’ Shirvell also showed up at Armstrong’s home three times – including once at 1:30 a.m., harassed Armstrong’s friends as they were socializing, tried to get him fired from his job and posted online attacks about the student.
Shirvell maintained that his conduct was protected by the First Amendment.
He was fired by then-Attorney General Mike Cox for ‘conduct unbecoming a state employee, especially that of an assistant attorney general.’
But at the time of Shirvell’s firing, Cox explicitly said was was not firing him for expressing himself. Instead, he was firing Shirvell for repeatedly violating office policies, engaging in borderline stalking behavior, and inappropriately using state resources.