A federal judge on Friday ruled in favor of a former American University student targeted in a racist “troll storm” launched by the publisher of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.
Taylor Dumpson, the university’s first-ever Black female student body president, was awarded a $725,000 judgment in her lawsuit against the website’s founder Andrew Anglin, according to court documents. Anglin and an online follower, Brian Ade, are accused of targeting Dumpson in a orchestrated campaign of racist harassment on social media back in 2017.
“Ms. Dumpson was targeted because of her race and her gender,” Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia wrote in her ruling, awarding the hefty judgement.
According to The New York Times, Friday’s judgment marked the third against Anglin in just the past three months. A $14 million judgment was rendered against the publisher last Thursday, and he now owes a total of almost $20 million to at least three people.
The racial abuse against Dumpson began in May 2017, shortly after she was sworn in as the university’s student body president; several bunches of bananas scribbled with hateful message were found hangings from nooses across the Washington, D.C., campus.
University officials investigated the incident, but didn’t name any suspects at the time.
News of the nooses soon made headlines, after which Anglin posted an article about the incident, linking to Dumpson’s Facebook page as well as the university’s student government Twitter page. In response, an online troll tweeted a photo of bananas with the caption, “READY THE TROOPS,” and later tagged Dumpson in a separate post that read “OOGA BOOGA.”
In a lawsuit filed April 2018, Dumpson claimed it was Anglin who directed his followers to bully her online, making her the victim of “a vicious online campaign of racially motivated harassment designed to intimidate” her and make her fearful. Ade and another online troll, Evan McCarthy, heeded the call and targeted Dumpson in a series of racist, threatening and degrading messages online, complaint alleged.
The now-23-year-old law student said the ordeal left her in constant fear for her safety on campus and that she was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, she developed depression, anxiety and an eating disorder as a result of the harassment, causing her to lose more than 15 percent of her body weight, according to the suit.
Dumpson’s attorneys had previously asked a federal court in Washington, D.C., to rule in her favor after Anglin and Ade failed to respond to her complaint, which originally sought over $1.8 million in damages, fees and court costs against the neo-Nazi publisher and his company.
In a settlement reached late last year, McCarthy agreed to receive “anti-hate training,” apologize to Dumpson in writing and on video, as well as publicly renounce white supremacy. Neither Anglin or Ade were involved in that agreement.
On Friday, Dumpson was awarded $500,000 in punitive damages, $124,000 in attorneys’ fees and over $101,000 in compensatory damages. The judge also entered a restraining order against the defendants.
The young woman’s lawyer, Kristen Clarke, hailed the ruling and said it “should make it incredibly difficult for The Daily Stormer to carry on business as usual.”
“Too often hate crime victims don’t get justice, but that didn’t happen here,” Clarke said, as quoted by The New York Times. “This ruling is historic in that it marks the first time that a court has deemed racist online trolling activity that can interfere with one’s equal access to a public accommodation.”
“The court’s ruling recognizes the real-world damage done when bigots take to the internet to target and threaten African-Americans and other people of color,” she added in a statement.
None of the defendants were present for the judgment.