Missoula judge advances suit against neo-Nazi who attacked Whitefish real estate agent
A federal magistrate in Missoula has denied neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin’s motion to dismiss a harassment case brought against him by a Whitefish woman over a hate-filled troll storm he unleashed on her last year.
Anglin owns the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that promotes white nationalism. Last year he began an online campaign against Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent and woman of Jewish faith who lives in Whitefish.
Anglin targeted Gersh after she backed out of a real estate deal with Sherry Spencer, the mother of alt-right nationalist leader Richard Spencer who also lives part-time in Whitefish. The soured when Sherry Spencer published an online account claiming Gersh had advised her to sell her retail space and donate part of the sale proceeds to a local human-rights group.
On Dec. 17, the day after Spencer’s blog post appeared, Anglin posted the first of dozens of posts about Gersh. According to court documents, Anglin’s Dec. 16, 2016, article was titled “Jews Targeting Richard Spencer’s Mother for Harassment and Extortion – TAKE ACTION!”
Anglin called for a “troll storm” against Gersh and included contact information for Gersh, her husband, and her 12-year old son. Anglin encouraged readers of the Daily Stormer to contact Gersh and members of her family to “tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda” and make their opinions of her behavior known, according to Gersh’s lawsuit.
Soon after Anglin’s first article went live, Gersh says she and her family began receiving hundreds of threatening and harassing communications, including phone calls, voicemails, text message, e-mails, letters, and social media comments.
Gersh says she and her family received more than 700 threatening and harassing communications in the following two months, including a commentary at the Daily Stormer that urged people to print out a Nazi swastika and put it in their windows.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and Montana attorney John Morrison represent Gersh in her harassment and intimidation complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana. She seeks punitive damages.
Anglin and his attorney Marc Randazza sought to have the case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, saying that Anglin, who registered to vote in Franklin County, Ohio, in 2016, lives overseas and out of the federal court’s reach.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch on Wednesday denied Anglin’s motion, writing that “Gersh has presented evidence that Anglin maintains significant business ties to Ohio.” Lynch will hear oral arguments in the case April 3 in Missoula.
Lynch noted both of Anglin’s businesses, Moonbase Holdings and Daily Stormer, are registered with the Ohio Secretary of State and are active. There is evidence that Anglin has used various mailing addresses in Franklin County, Ohio, for business and other purposes and as recently as April 2017, Anglin published an Ohio post office box address to solicit donations for his legal defense in the Gersh lawsuit, Lynch wrote.
Lynch found these facts sufficient to establish that Anglin was domiciled in Ohio before Gersh filed her complaint in April 2017.
“Even assuming Anglin’s statements are true, they are not sufficient to demonstrate that he lost his Ohio domicile by acquiring a new one abroad,” Lynch wrote.
Anglin says he left Ohio permanently and moved to the Philippines sometime before 2010, but Lynch said Anglin has not produced any objective evidence showing such a change in domicile.
“Anglin simply states in his declaration that sometime before 2010, he took up residency in the Philippines, with the intent to live there permanently,” Lynch wrote.
Anglin provided redacted photocopies of passport stamps he allegedly received in Greece and Cambodia, and Anglin said in court documents that while he was in Cambodia he lived at the Damnak Villa Boutique in Siem Reap City where he also purchased a motorcycle.
After reviewing the travel documents behind closed doors amid Anglin’s fears that revealing his true whereabouts could endanger him, Lynch ruled those were not enough to show that Anglin has established domicile in those countries.
Randazza had also lobbied for dismissal because Gersh’s attorneys had been unable to serve Anglin with the complaint personally. They instead published a notice in a local newspaper.
Lynch denied the dismissal request on that basis as well.
“We are very pleased with the Court’s ruling on personal jurisdiction and look forward to presenting arguments to the Court on our substantive legal claims,” Gersh attorney John Morrison said in a statement.
In an email, Randazza noted Anglin has in fact been out of the United States since 2010 and called “commentary we have seen that he is outside the country to try and evade this lawsuit is a lie on its face.”
As for Lynch’s ruling on Wednesday, Randazza said: “You can’t win them all. Obviously, we believed our arguments had merit. However, if you read the ruling, the magistrate put in significant thought and gave the issues significant attention to detail. We may respectfully disagree on some of the conclusions, I cannot say that anything in it seems out of left field.
“At this point, what remains are our substantive First Amendment arguments,” he continued. “I personally think they are more important and far-reaching and affect all of our basic freedoms. Therefore, we look forward to the hearing on April 3 where we will be presenting our arguments in support of maintaining the integrity of the Constitution.”