Judge: Man can recover money from neo-Nazi website founder
A Muslim-American radio host can recover monetary damages against a neo-Nazi website operator who falsely accused him of terrorism, a federal judge ruled without deciding on a dollar amount.
SiriusXM Radio show host Dean Obeidallah is seeking more than $1 million in damages against The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin, who hasn't responded to Obeidallah's libel lawsuit.
Chief U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. agreed Wednesday to enter a default judgment against Anglin and his company, Moonbase Holdings LLC. Sargus scheduled a June 12 hearing in Columbus, Ohio, to determine the proper amount of damages and fees.
Obeidallah "has adequately stated his claims and is entitled to monetary relief," Sargus wrote. But the judge added that an evidentiary hearing is necessary "because Obeidallah's evidence does not provide definite figures of his injuries."
Anglin now faces possible default judgments in four federal cases, including separate lawsuits filed by two other targets of his site's online harassment campaigns.
Taylor Dumpson, the first black woman to serve as American University's student government president, is seeking more than $1.5 million in court-ordered damages against Anglin. On Monday, her lawyers asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., for a default judgment against Anglin and his company. Dumpson says Anglin directed his readers to "troll storm" her after someone hung bananas with hateful messages from nooses on the university's campus a day after her May 2017 inauguration as student government president.
Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real estate agent in Montana, sued Anglin in April 2017 for orchestrating an anti-Semitic "troll storm" against her family. The federal court in Montana entered a default order against Anglin after he failed to appear for his scheduled deposition Tuesday by Gersh's attorneys from the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center.
The lawyers who have represented Anglin in the Montana case have asked the court's permission to drop him as a client. Anglin hasn't had lawyers defend him in the suits filed by Obeidallah and Dumpson.
In March 2018, a federal court in Virginia also entered a default against Anglin in a lawsuit against several other far-right extremist groups and figures over Charlottesville rally violence. That case awaits trial.
Obeidallah, a comedian and Daily Beast columnist, says Anglin falsely labeled him as the "mastermind" behind a deadly bombing at a concert in England. Obeidallah said he received death threats after Anglin published an article about him in June 2017. The site embedded fabricated messages in the post to make them seem like they had been sent from Obeidallah's Twitter account, tricking readers into believing he took responsibility for the May 2017 terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, his lawsuit alleges.
Obeidallah is seeking $250,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages from Anglin and his company. Obeidallah said Anglin libeled him, invaded his privacy, and intentionally inflicted "emotional distress."
Anglin didn't immediately respond Thursday to an email seeking comment. His current whereabouts are a mystery. The Ohio native says he has lived abroad for years and claims it would be too dangerous for him to travel to the U.S. because he gets credible death threats.
Anglin's site takes its name from Der Stürmer, a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda. The site includes sections called "Jewish Problem" and "Race War." For months, the site struggled to stay online after Anglin published a post mocking the woman who was killed when a man plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
Obeidallah, who sued Anglin less than a week after the bloodshed at the "Unite the Right" rally, is represented by attorneys from Muslim Advocates, a national legal and educational organization.
Juvaria Khan, a senior staff attorney for Muslim Advocates, said the case has never been about money for Obeidallah.
"He really sees it as a way to send a message: Whether you're a Muslim-American or anyone else, your free speech can't be chilled just because someone targets you," Khan said.
Obeidallah's attorneys have said Anglin's father, Greg, testified that he helped his son collect and deposit between $100,000 and $150,000 in readers' mailed donations over a five-year period. Obeidallah's lawyers subsequently asked for the court's authorization to subpoena financial records from three banks that Greg Anglin used to funnel donated money to his son.
In a court filing, Obeidallah's lawyers said one of Anglin's bank accounts received more than $198,000 in donations between February 2016 and October 2018. They cited an estimate that Anglin has received more than $378,000 in bitcoin. He also used a crowdfunding website to raise more than $152,000 in donations to help pay for his legal expenses.