COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — An internet troll who harassed a black college student with racist messages on social media has agreed to a court settlement requiring him to get “anti-hate training,” apologize in writing and on video and publicly renounce white supremacy.
Tuesday’s settlement agreement would resolve Taylor Dumpson’s claims against one of the defendants she sued in April over an online harassment campaign orchestrated by a neo-Nazi website publisher.
Her lawsuit says The Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin directed his site’s readers to cyberbully her after she became the first black woman to serve as American University’s student government president.
Dumpson sued Anglin and two people who harassed her online. Her settlement agreement is with Oregon resident Evan James McCarty, who posted on Twitter under the pseudonym “Byron de la Vandal,” an apparent reference to Byron De La Beckwith, who assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963.
Dumpson’s attorneys previously asked the federal court in Washington, D.C., to enter default judgments against Anglin and another defendant, Brian Andrew Ade, for their failure to respond to the suit. Anglin and Ade aren’t involved in the settlement.
Dumpson’s ordeal began a day after her May 2017 inauguration as student government president, when someone hung bananas with hateful messages from nooses on the university’s campus. Authorities investigated but didn’t identify any suspects.
Anglin posted an article about the incident, including links to Dumpson’s Facebook page and the American University Student Government’s Twitter page. In response to an announcement about Dumpson’s whereabouts, McCarty tweeted a picture of bananas captioned, “READY THE TROOPS,” and wrote, “OOGA BOOGA,” in another tweet directed at her, her suit says.
Dumpson, now a 22-year-old law school student, said she wants her lawsuit to “hold people accountable for their bigoted actions.” She believes the partial settlement “could raise awareness of issues of racial justice, while also providing for educational benefits.”
“I guess I was open to the idea that even the perpetrator of a racially motivated act of bias could still be more or less reformed,” she told The Associated Press.
Deb and James McCarty, Evan’s parents, said their family has “sincere empathy” for Dumpson and is “profoundly sorry for the harm caused her.” They said their son “is a different person than he was when he hid behind an alias and was persuaded into hateful activity on the internet.”
“Evan, our son, feels deep regret about his actions and is committed to making changes and moving forward in a positive way,” they said in a statement. “At this time, he is focused on continuing to make progress, pursuing his degree, contributing to his community and committed to making amends.”
Dumpson’s lawyers hope the settlement agreement could become a model for encouraging others to abandon white supremacy. McCarty agreed to apologize directly to Dumpson in a video conference that she can record for advocacy and educational purposes.
He also agreed to attend at least one year of anti-hate training sessions with a licensed therapist or a qualified counselor, and to complete at least four academic courses on race and gender issues. In addition, McCarty must complete at least 200 hours of community service promoting “racial justice and civil rights” and publicly advocate against hate.
“This advocacy could take many forms, such as direct outreach to other white supremacists to attempt de-radicalization,” the agreement says.
Dumpson is represented by attorneys from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Kristen Clarke, the Washington-based group’s president and executive director, said the agreement should have a “chilling effect” on those who anonymously spew hate online.
“At the end of the day, our settlement should send a strong message to white supremacists and neo-Nazis all across the country that they will be held accountable for their conduct,” she said.
Anglin’s site takes its name from Der Stürmer, a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda in Nazi-era Germany, and includes sections called “Jewish Problem” and “Race War.” Domain name registration companies Google and GoDaddy yanked the site’s web address after Anglin published a post mocking the woman killed by a man who plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
Dumpson’s case is one of three federal lawsuits filed against Anglin by targets of his racist and anti-Semitic trolling campaigns.
Montana real estate agent Tanya Gersh sued Anglin in April 2017, claiming anonymous internet trolls bombarded her family with hateful and threatening messages after Anglin published their personal information.
Muslim-American radio host Dean Obeidallah sued Anglin in his native Ohio in August 2017. Obeidallah’s federal suit says Anglin falsely labeled him as the “mastermind” behind a deadly bombing at a concert in England.
Dumpson’s suit says she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and “feels constantly afraid and on edge,” terrified to leave her home at night.
“It’s one of the first things I think about in the morning and one of the last things I think about when I go to sleep,” she said.
Her suit asks the court to rule that the defendants violated the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977 and the D.C. Bias-Related Crimes Act of 1989. The court hasn’t ruled yet.
By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
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