The attorneys for Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin told a Montana federal court this week that they intend to withdraw from a high-profile harassment lawsuit against their neo-Nazi client after indicating that Anglin will refuse to obey a court order to appear in the United States for an in-person deposition at the end of April.
Anglin, an Ohio native who says he lives in a secret overseas location, claimed that a deposition in the U.S. would put him at risk of physical harm.
“He believes that his life is in danger if his whereabouts are revealed,” Anglin’s lead attorney Marc Randazza told HuffPost in March. “That’s his firmly and sincerely held belief.”
That was not, however, the belief of the judge, who ruled this month that Anglin’s safety concerns were “factually unsupported,” after which Randazza announced that his client would likely “default” rather than appear in person to answer questions under oath in a case that could have been a litmus test for how the legal system might hold ringleaders of online harassment mobs accountable.
In 2016, Anglin used his website to unleash an anti-Semitic “troll storm” on Tanya Gersh, a Jewish realtor embroiled in a property dispute with the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer. Gersh and her family received more than 700 threatening and harassing communications from Anglin’s followers. With the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Gersh sued Anglin in 2017 for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of “emotional distress” and violating a Montana anti-intimidation law.
Anglin quickly hired Randazza, who bills himself as a First Amendment attorney and has become the go-to advocate for far-right propagandists and extremists advancing a hateful anti-democratic ideology with the goal of silencing others.
“Randazza is the best there is,” Anglin wrote on the Daily Stormer at the time.
But Randazza was not the best. In fact, he has since been disciplined in Nevada and Arizona for ethical violations he committed while working as an in-house counsel for pornographers years ago.
Last month, a Connecticut judge cited Randazza’s “serious misconduct” in denying the attorney entry in a case where he was hoping to represent far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who is being sued by several parents of children murdered in the Sandy Hook massacre. After Nevada sanctioned him, other state bars that license Randazza initiated reciprocal discipline procedures. In May, Randazza will appear at a hearing in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that could determine whether he will be suspended for an additional ethical violation that the State Bar of Nevada ignored.
If nothing else, Randazza and Anglin made a fitting Mutt-and-Jeff courthouse combo as the Gersh case devolved into farce thanks to their trollish antics. For almost a year, Anglin evaded process servers while Randazza unsuccessfully argued that his client existed beyond the court’s jurisdiction as a “stateless” citizen. He told the court that Anglin, who was involved in preparations for the deadly white supremacist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, hadn’t set foot in the U.S. since 2012, despite Anglin admitting on the Daily Stormer to being in his hometown of Columbus in 2017 to expunge a misdemeanor drug conviction from his record. Randazza suggested that Anglin was in Nigeria, Russia, the Philippines, Greece, Cambodia. He offered up incomplete images of Anglin’s passport as evidence. None of it worked.
In a more sinister turn, the attorney also trotted out Holocaust denial as a legal defense, arguing, essentially, that if Anglin didn’t believe the Nazis gassed Jews during World War II, then his followers’ threats to gas Gersh and her family shouldn’t be taken seriously.
But the pair’s primary defense all along was to argue that everything Anglin published on his site ― including contact information for Gersh and her family, instructions on how to harass her and sample content his followers could use to harass her ― was protected speech. After a judge shot down that argument in November, Randazza and Anglin resorted to desperate-looking stalling and dodging tactics. Anglin, for instance, proposed doing the Gersh deposition in Cuba or Venezuela, a proposition that even Randazza, who did not comment for this story, said he was unprepared to “vigorously defend.”
Last month, Randazza absurdly likened his neo-Nazi client to Thomas Paine and tried to persuade the court that Anglin, a propagandist and serial harasser who routinely libels journalists and celebrates violence against the press, was himself a journalist and, therefore, protected by a Montana shield law from revealing the identities of his followers who anonymously threatened Gersh and continue to menace targets of Anglin’s choosing.
Anglin, for example, recently dispatched his trolls to harass a man who runs a packaging company in Charlottesville and had apparently sent Anglin an email encouraging the neo-Nazi to remain in “whatever fascist rat hole” in which he’s hiding. Anglin’s trolls downvoted the packaging company on its Google reviews page and left scores of bogus, bigoted write-ups. The neo-Nazi also showed HuffPost evidence that he took part in the trolling campaign.
He has gotten far more radical. Marc Randazza, Anglin's attorney
By then, his legal gyrations in Montana were coming to an end. On Monday, Randazza and Anglin’s other lawyers told the court they had notified their client of their decision to back out of the case, a move that still requires the approval of a judge. The lawyers must file a motion to withdraw by May 13.
This is not the first time Randazza has slunk away from his legal wreckage ― last year, he withdrew from a case after he and a client made numerous misrepresentations in Utah federal court that led to his client being sanctioned. This breakup, though, is different. For a time, Randazza and Anglin were pals subverting the system together. But Anglin was always too far gone, a conspiratorial loon raving about Jewish cabalism, his hatred of America and his desire to see the brains of his enemies splattered on walls.
“He has gotten far more radical,” Randazza told HuffPost in March.
If Anglin fails to show up for his deposition next week, the court will enter a “default” in the matter and open the door for Gersh to file for “default judgment,” which would likely result in her being awarded damages that could put a long-term drain on Anglin’s finances.
“Targeting someone for an onslaught of hateful threats causes real harm,” said David Dinielli, the SPLC’s deputy legal director. “A default will bring this case one step closer to a confirmation that there is no place in a civil society for these kinds of attacks. Individuals, like Tanya Gersh, can stand up for themselves in court, and win.”
But nobody wants to stand up for Anglin anymore. If the Montana judge lets Randazza out of the Gersh case, it would be an appropriate denouement to a twisting legal saga for the attorney and his extremist client ― and one not without a touch of sorrow for Anglin. When reached for comment over Twitter, where the neo-Nazi was ostensibly banned four years ago, Anglin refused to discuss Randazza’s desire to dump him as a client.
“That question is too personal to answer,” he said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said Anglin admitted to being in his hometown in 2016. He said he was there in 2017.