Former prosecutor ordered to pay $4.5 million for defaming gay student
DETROIT — Former state assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell was ordered to pay $4.5 million in damages after a federal jury on Thursday ruled that his blog — “Chris Armstrong Watch” — which attacked the former University of Michigan’s openly gay student body president, was in fact defamation.
Shirvell alleged that Armstrong pushed a “radical homosexual agenda,” called him a Nazi, a “privileged pervert,” and accused the him of being a representative of Satan.
In April of 2011, Armstrong filed the suit against Shirvell, seeking more than $25,000 in damages.
Armstrong’s suit claimed Shirvell “developed a bizarre personal obsession” with him in early 2010 after claiming the student was a radical homosexual activist.
Attorney Deborah Gordon, who represents the former UM student who graduated in 2011, told media outlets earlier this month that she would drop the case if Shirvell apologized. Shirvell, who now lives in North Babylon, N.Y., said his statements were true and protected because Armstrong was a public figure.
In November 2010, Shirvell was fired for “abusing” the powers of his office.
At the time of his firing, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said, in a statement, that Shirvell was guilty of conduct unbecoming of a state law enforcement official and utilizing state resources to persecute and harass Armstrong.
The two fought viciously in court for nearly a year before a week-long trial began last week. The jury got the case late Wednesday and deliberated for most of the day Thursday.
Armstrong won on all counts and was awarded $4.5 million, Armstrong’s attorney Deborah Gordon told reporters.
The state bar’s Attorney Grievance Commission is also investigating Shirvell’s actions because Armstrong has also filed an ethics complaint seeking his disbarment.
Shirvell was unable to be reached for comment.