A federal judge is considering whether a neo-Nazi website’s publisher had the right under the First Amendment to incite a “troll storm” of anti-Semitic, threatening and violent messages and phone calls against a Jewish woman from Whitefish and her family.
Attorneys for Tanya Gersh, of Whitefish, and The Daily Stormer’s publisher Andrew Anglin delivered arguments April 3 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch in Missoula. The arguments centered on a motion to dismiss the case filed by Anglin’s legal team, which argues the publisher’s actions constituted protected political speech under the First Amendment.
Gersh sued Anglin last year after her family received hundreds of harassing messages from Anglin’s followers at his urging. She says Anglin invaded her privacy, caused her emotional distress and violated a Montana anti-intimidation law.
Anglin’s attorneys are asking the judge to dismiss the lawsuit because they argue Anglin was practicing protected political speech.
Another matter arose at the hearing when Anglin’s attorneys challenged the constitutionality of Montana’s Anti-Intimidation Act without giving notice to the state attorney general, in violation of the federal rules of civil procedure.
The attorneys have since filed a notice of constitutional questions with Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.
John Morrison, who is representing the Gersh family along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said he hopes for a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs and is eager to try the case before a jury.
“The judge is taking a close look at our claims and we look forward to presenting our client’s case to the jury,” Morrison said.
Lynch took the arguments under advisement but did not specify when a ruling would be made.