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Lawyer ordered to pay $4.5M to gay University of Michigan student

A jury has awarded Chris Armstrong, a gay University of Michigan student body president, $4.5 million in his lawsuit against a former Michigan assistant attorney general who posted about him in an anti-gay blog.
A jury has awarded Chris Armstrong, a gay University of Michigan student body president, $4.5 million in his lawsuit against a former Michigan assistant attorney general who posted about him in an anti-gay blog.Sam Wolson / AP

By JEFF KAROUB, Associated Press

DETROIT — A jury on Thursday awarded a gay University of Michigan student body president $4.5 million in his lawsuit against a former Michigan assistant attorney general who posted about him in an anti-gay blog.

The U.S. District Court jury ruled in favor of Christopher Armstrong, who claimed he suffered distress after a blog created by Andrew Shirvell accused him of enticing minors with alcohol and recruiting people to become homosexual.

"I'm just incredibly humbled by what happened today," Armstrong told The Associated Press. "This is truly a victory — not just for myself, but for a lot of other kids out there."

Shirvell, who was representing himself, said the jury award was "grossly excessive" for what was "clearly protected speech ... and activity."

"This should have been thrown out," he said, adding that he plans to appeal. "Juries give short shrift to First Amendment rights."

Armstrong accused Shirvell of defamation as well as emotional distress for his actions on the blog, in Facebook posts and during visits to the Ann Arbor campus.

Then-Attorney General Mike Cox fired Shirvell in 2010 after Shirvell criticized Armstrong, who graduated last year.

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