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November 8, 2010: Michigan Assistant Attorney General Fired for Harassing Gay Student

Assistant state attorney Andrew Shirvell of Michigan is fired for harassing the student assembly president of the University of Michigan, Chris Armstrong. Armstrong is gay; since April, Shirvell has conducted a campaign of harassment at him over his homosexuality, veracity, and other personal attributes (see April 1 - October 1, 2010). Shirvell maintains he was merely exercising his freedom of speech. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox fires Shirvell after the first day of a mandatory disciplinary hearing for him. Cox says that Shirvell’s firing comes after a state investigation revealed that Shirvell “repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior, and inappropriately used state resources.” Shirvell also told a number of lies during the disciplinary hearing. Cox adds, “To be clear, I refuse to fire anyone for exercising their First Amendment rights, regardless of how popular or unpopular their positions might be.” Cox says Shirvell crossed the boundaries of free speech when he repeatedly went to Armstrong’s home to verbally abuse him, including one visit at 1:30 a.m. “That incident is especially telling because it clearly was about harassing Mr. Armstrong, not engaging in free speech,” Cox says. Armstrong says Shirvell videotaped a late-night party at his home, appeared on campus with signs calling him a “racist” and a “liar,” and repeatedly vilified him on Internet blogs. Armstrong says the state should revoke Shirvell’s law license. A statement from the attorney general’s office says, “The next step must be a complete retraction of all the malicious lies and fabrications by Mr. Shirvell, and a public apology to Mr. Armstrong, his family and others Mr. Shirvell has slandered.” Shirvell’s lawyer says his client is considering appealing the decision to fire him to the Michigan Civil Service Commission, and says Shirvell believes the decision to fire him was politically motivated. Cox says, “The cumulative effects of his use of state resources, harassing conduct that is not protected by the First Amendment, and his lies during the disciplinary conference all demonstrate adequate evidence of conduct unbecoming a state employee.” Shirvell is prohibited by a restraining order from making physical or verbal contact with Armstrong, nor is he allowed to be in the same place as the student when it’s likely Armstrong will be present. (Associated Press 11/8/2010)


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