September 20, 2017

They’re Trying to Sue a White Supremacist. First He Must Be Found.

Since April, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy and civil rights group, has tried to track down Mr. Anglin for a lawsuit claiming that he used his website to inflict emotional distress on Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real estate agent in Montana. The fruitless search for him exemplifies the challenges that online harassment cases sometimes encounter.

The lawsuit is one of several against Mr. Anglin. On Tuesday, two women who say they were injured in the Charlottesville neo-Nazi protest sued him and other organizers. A day later, the SiriusXM radio host Dean Obeidallah sued Mr. Anglin for calling him the “mastermind” behind a deadly bombing.

Mr. Anglin is considered a “prestige figure” in the white nationalist movement and is most likely hiding among his community, said Keegan Hankes, an analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Mr. Anglin’s lawyer, Marc Randazza, said that the editor should be easy to find and that no one had looked hard enough. Mr. Anglin has written on The Daily Stormer that he is in Nigeria.

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Marc Randazza, the lawyer defending Mr. Anglin in several lawsuits, says his client isn’t hiding. Credit Isaac Brekken for The New York Times

Asked in an email about Ms. Gersh’s lawsuit, Mr. Anglin wrote: “I’m a serious person and I only deal with serious reporters,” adding an anti-Semitic epithet to describe The New York Times.

Mr. Anglin is facing troubles other than the lawsuits. GoDaddy and Google kicked The Daily Stormer off their platforms last week for violating their terms of service. The site re-emerged on Tor, a browser for anonymous web surfing, and within a day found a new home on a Russian server before again being booted. The website appeared to be offline late Friday, days after it was expelled from CloudFlare, a service that provides protection from online attacks.

Ms. Gersh’s lawsuit stems from events last spring in Whitefish, Mont. There, Ms. Gersh, a real estate agent, encouraged Sherry Spencer, to disavow her son, Richard Spencer, a white supremacist, and donate to human rights causes. As tensions in the community grew, Ms. Gersh offered to sell a building in town owned by Ms. Spencer.

Mr. Anglin told his followers that Ms. Gersh was extorting Ms. Spencer and encouraged them to write anti-Semitic messages to Ms. Gersh. She and her son, who was 12, soon received thousands of phone calls and emails, including a message encouraging her son to crawl into an oven.

In April, Ms. Gersh and the Southern Poverty Law Center sued The Daily Stormer, accusing it of orchestrating a “troll storm.” The case could set a precedent on how online harassment is treated under the law.

But the suit has stalled. The four-person team at Encore Process Service in Columbus, Ohio, visited seven addresses to find Mr. Anglin and returned some 15 times. To Jeffrey A. Cremeans, who runs Encore Process Service and has served notice of lawsuits for 25 years, Mr. Anglin became a case that still haunts him.

“Sometimes you take it personal,” Mr. Cremeans said.

Ms. Ploesser, who specializes in investigations for the firm, added: “We found fictitious offices. Things were always closed.”

Ms. Ploesser believes Mr. Anglin barricaded himself in one of his Ohio addresses. But after a little over a week of searching in April, the team had exhausted its options.

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Afterward, the Southern Poverty Law Center began the byzantine process of trying to move the lawsuit forward without Mr. Anglin. The court clerk sent papers to his known addresses through certified mail; those were returned undeliverable. Then the papers were sent through regular mail; they were also returned undeliverable.

If Mr. Anglin cannot be served notice in person, the last step is to put a public notice for six consecutive weeks in a local newspaper. Ms. Gersh’s lawyer at the Southern Poverty Law Center, David Dinielli, expects to do so this month.

“The circumstances in which these steps are normally taken is someone owed $7,000 on their credit card bill,” Mr. Dinielli said. “This is not what happens in nationally prominent civil rights litigation.”

When Mr. Randazza, Mr. Anglin’s lawyer and a First Amendment advocate, was asked whether his client was avoiding being served, he said: “Would you say that touchdowns are avoiding being scored in a shutout football game? Or would you say that the offense is not scoring them?”

Mr. Randazza said that what Mr. Anglin wrote was protected speech, and he connected the lawsuit with the broader political climate. “There’s this belief among the modern left that free speech is for me but not for thee,” he said.

Mr. Dinielli called Mr. Anglin a “coward.” He said Mr. Randazza had been avoiding his calls and emails. Mr. Randazza said he did not know Mr. Dinielli and had not ignored any calls or messages from him.

For Ms. Gersh, Mr. Anglin’s failure to respond to the suit is a display of hypocrisy. “I don’t know how long he’s allowed to hide,” she said. “The fact that he won’t stand up for himself now after being so willing to blast people and steal their lives and hurt them is shameful.”

Ms. Gersh said the violence in Charlottesville also reminded her of what Mr. Anglin’s movement was capable of doing.

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“People didn’t know my story was real because it was just online, as if online isn’t real,” Ms. Gersh said. “I want the world to know this is a very, very important site.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/20/technology/theyre-trying-to-sue-a-white-supremacist-first-he-must-be-found.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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