Judge awards $4.1 million in neo-Nazi website lawsuit

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge awarded a Muslim-American radio host $4.1 million in monetary damages Wednesday after he successfully sued a neo-Nazi website operator who falsely accused him of terrorism.

SiriusXM Radio show host Dean Obeidallah filed the civil complaint against The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin, who hasn't responded to Obeidallah's libel lawsuit. Anglin's whereabouts are unclear.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. agreed to enter a default judgment against Anglin and his company, Moonbase Holdings LLC. Sargus announced the award after a Wednesday morning hearing.

The judge said he was convinced nothing in Anglin's statements were protected speech under the First Amendment. He also issued an injunction ordering the materials about Obeidallah taken down from the website and forbidding Anglin from discussing them further.

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During the hearing, Obeidallah explained the shock he felt after Anglin published an article about him in June 2017, alleging that he was responsible for the May 2017 terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in England.

In his lawsuit, Obeidallah alleged 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 Manchester attack. That mix of real and fake tweets made the article all the more insidious, Obeidallah testified Wednesday.

Afterward, he received death threats and now worries about his safety and that of his family, he testified. In the lawsuit, Obeidallah said Anglin libeled him, invaded his privacy and intentionally inflicted "emotional distress."

After the hearing, Obeidallah praised the ruling and the message it sends to Anglin "and others of that ilk."

"That you're going to be held accountable in our court system if you try to smear people, and try to destroy their reputation because they speak out against your hateful ideology," Obeidallah said.

Among those who testified Wednesday was Andrew Anglin's father, Greg Anglin of suburban Columbus. Obeidallah's attorneys, who were allowed to subpoena Greg Anglin, have said he previously testified that he helped his son collect and deposit between $100,000 and $150,000 in readers' mailed donations over a five-year period.

Greg Anglin acknowledged helping file paperwork to set up the website and to receiving donations at a post office box. He said he last spoke to his son by phone about two weeks ago, but they didn't discuss the lawsuit. Afterward, he declined to talk to a reporter about his son or his whereabouts.

Anglin's current whereabouts are a mystery. The Ohio native has said he's 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.

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.