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State appeals judge’s ruling granting Shirvell benefits

By Peter Shahin, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 13, 2012

In a motion filed yesterday, state officials asked an Ingham County judge to reconsider her recent decision to grant unemployment benefits to Andrew Shirvell, a former Michigan assistant attorney general who was accused of stalking and harassing Chris Armstrong, the first openly gay president of the University’s student government.

Shirvell’s employment was officially terminated by the state in 2012 after a long leave of absence resulting from his harassment of Armstrong.

Beginning in 2010, Shirvell operated a blog tracking the student leader’s movements and warning readers about his “radical homosexual agenda.” The blog included images of a swastika adorned rainbow flag pointing at Armstrong’s face. Shirvell became a media sensation in 2010 after he partook in a now-infamous interview with CNN host Anderson Cooper, during which he defended his portrayal of Armstrong as “Satan’s representative.”

In August, Armstrong was awarded $4.5 million in damages in a defamation suit against Shirvell.

Ingham County Circuit Judge Paula Mansfield ruled in October that Shirvell is entitled under Michigan law to unemployment aid from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. The latest petition by the state seeks to overturn that ruling and deny Shirvell the benefits.

Shirvell’s request for unemployment was initially denied because he was dismissed from the attorney general’s office for misconduct relating to his harassment of Armstrong. Mansfield’s order reversed the initial decision.

“The law is on my side,” Shirvell said in an interview Tuesday evening. “The state’s refusal to award me unemployment compensation was blatantly unconstitutional because all of my activities relating to Chris Armstrong were done on my own time and they constituted first amendment protected activities.”

Shirvell said the state could take the case to an appellate court should their request fail to reverse Mansfield’s ruling. He added that the state’s strategy is to turn public opinion against the judge in attempt to either reverse the ruling or apply for an appeal.

“I’ve looked at a copy of their filing (with Mansfield),” Shirvell said. “Their filing reeks of desperation.”

Shirvell declined to comment on whether he was having any success finding another job.

“I will see this through to the very end,” Shirvell said in September. “I know in the end I’ll be successful, even if it goes to the Supreme Court.”

Yesterday an interview with Armstrong’s lead attorney, Deborah Gordon, was broadcasted on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” In response, Shirvell wrote in a statement that Cooper’s coverage was “profoundly biased” and that CNN legal analyst Jeffery Toobin and Cooper went on a “rampage and tried to blatantly intimidate Judge Mansfield into reversing her correct decision.”

“As for Deborah Gordon, I note that Cooper failed to mention the fact that I am currently suing Gordon in federal court for defamation and invasion of privacy for her past media appearances …” Shirvell wrote. “I fully expect Judge Mansfield not to be intimidated by the likes of Gordon.”


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