April 18, 2017 / 5:26 PM / 3 months ago

Montana real estate agent sues neo-Nazi website over 'troll storm'

3 Min Read

(Reuters) - A Montana real estate agent who said she and her 12-year-old son received hundreds of threatening anti-Semitic messages after a neo-Nazi website called on its readers to launch a "troll storm" against her sued the site's owner in federal court on Tuesday.

Real estate agent Tanya Gersh filed a civil suit accusing the publisher of the white supremacist Daily Stormer website, Andrew Anglin, of invading her privacy, intentionally inflicting emotional distress and violating the state's anti-intimidation act by calling on his readers in December to target her with e-mails and phone calls.

That followed a dispute over a property in Gersh's town of Whitefish, Montana, owned by Sherry Spencer, the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer, who earned national attention for shouting "Hail Trump" at a Washington, D.C., conference following Donald Trump's election win last year.

Anglin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

White nationalists have received increasing media attention in recent months for their support of Trump, who condemned the November conference where Spencer spoke and some attendees extended Nazi-style salutes.

Sherry Spencer owns a building in Whitefish that was targeted by protesters angry over Richard Spencer's white nationalist stance who called on his mother to disavow his views.

Gersh called Sherry Spencer and discussed the possibility of selling the building, an idea that she was initially open to, according to the lawsuit. Sherry Spencer later changed her mind and in an article posted on Medium.com accused Gersh, who is Jewish, of trying to extort her.

That provoked Anglin's call for a "troll storm" against Gersh, an outpouring of hundreds of e-mails and phone calls, many of which used anti-Semitic rhetoric.

"You will be driven to the brink of suicide...We will be there to take pleasure in your pain & eventual end," one message read, according to the lawsuit. Another simply repeated the phrase "DEATH TO TANYA."

Some messages suggested that Gersh shoot herself. Her 12-year-old son received harassing messages via his YouTube and Twitter accounts.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified financial damages, contends that Gersh has experienced panic attacks, lost her hair and been prescribed anti-depressants. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which researches hate groups, provided legal counsel to Gersh.

Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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