The publisher of a neo-Nazi website who unleashed a storm of anti-Semitism against a Whitefish resident in late 2016 argued in court filings Wednesday that a federal court's recent ruling in favor of President Donald Trump should fall his way, too.
Andrew Anglin, who heads the Daily Stormer site, is being sued by Tanya Gersh, who was subject to Anglin's "troll storm" against her and other Jewish residents living in Whitefish.
Anglin's attorneys asked a federal judge to dismiss that case nearly a year ago. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen denied the motion in May.
But on Tuesday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Trump did not incite violence at a Louisville, Kentucky, rally in 2016 when he said "get 'em out of here," followed by "don't hurt 'em." The ruling effectively threw out a case against the president claiming he urged his supporters to get rowdy against protesters at the rally, finding his statements fell under First Amendment protection.
"If words have meaning the admonition 'don't hurt 'em' cannot be reasonably construed as an urging to 'hurt 'em,'" the court wrote.
In their motion to dismiss the case in November, Anglin's attorneys included a copy of his post in which he dispatches his followers to "Hit Em Up" with an "old fashioned Troll Storm." He followed that call up with "NO VIOLENCE OR THREATS OF VIOLENCE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE TO THAT."
The storm that followed after Anglin posted Gersh and her family's contact information put the family in hiding to escape the onslaught of anti-Semitism.
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"Hickory dickory dock, the (anti-Semitic slur) ran up the clock. The clock struck three and Internet Nazi trolls gassed the rest of them," read one comment Gersh received on social media, according to Gersh's complaint.
The posts started after Sherry Spencer, mother of nationally known white nationalist and part-time Whitefish resident Richard Spencer, accused Gersh of threatening and harassing her into selling her Whitefish property.
Anglin, however, argues he can't be held liable for any of the statements of third parties because he did not provide them with any "substantial assistance."
University of Montana law school professor Anthony Johnstone said Thursday the 6th Circuit ruling may carry less weight in the Montana case because Anglin's case is under the 9th Circuit.
"Still, it is correct to point out that the First Amendment protects speech as long as the speaker does not intend to encourage imminent violence or lawlessness," he said in an email to the Missoulian. "In the Trump case that context is a single event. In contrast, in the Daily Stormer case there is a broader context involving a longer course of speech targeting (Gersh)."
The two cases have different contexts and different facts, Johnstone said, but the First Amendment principle applies in the Trump case will be the same law that guides the judge in the Montana case.