A lawyer is being ordered to pay millions after defaming a gay student by saying he seduced minors with alcohol and promoted a ‘homosexual lifestyle’.
A Detroit federal court jury awarded the 22-year-old Christopher Armstrong, who graduated last year as the University of Michigan’s first openly gay student body president, $4.5 million (£2.9m, €3.65m)on Thursday (16 August).
Andrew Shirvell, a former Michigan assistant attorney general, was found guilty for defamation, stalking, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.
Armstrong said: ‘I’m just incredibly humbled by what happened today. This is truly a victory, not just for myself, but for a lot of other kids out there.’
Michigan state Attorney General Mike Cox said Shirvell at work ‘repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior and inappropriately used state resources’.
When Armstrong’s lawyer Deborah Gordon was asked what Shirvell had said about the student, she said: ‘He said [Armstrong] had an orgy in a dorm room and sex in a park and that he had liquored up underage freshmen to recruit them to the 'homosexual lifestyle.’
Shirvell had also referred to Armstrong as ‘Satan's representative’ on the Michigan Student Assembly.
He also used Facebook to follow the student president and blogged about him regularly; following him to events, waiting outside his house, and calling the police to end his parties.
In 2010, Shirvell told CNN Armstrong is ‘a radical homosexual activist who got elected… to promote a very deep, radical agenda at the University of Michigan.’
When Shirvell cited Armstrong’s push for gender-neutral campus housing as something he opposed, he said: ‘What we’re talking about is any man or woman wanting to choose to live together.
‘That’s a radical redefinition of gender norms.’
He added: ‘I’m a Christian citizen exercising my First Amendment rights.’
Shirvell, who was fired from his job by the Attorney General in 2010, said he is unemployed, and has no means to pay the sizeable settlement.
Gordon said the ruling was not about the money, but about giving Armstrong back his reputation.
‘The jury has spoken. He had his chance to take responsibility and make this right, and give Chris his reputation back,’ she said.
‘The jury did it. I don't need any retractions, nor am I asking. Absolutely not. He can just live with that.’