By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
(AP) – Andrew Anglin, founder of a neo-Nazi website notorious for its racist internet trolling campaigns, has dubiously claimed he lives in Nigeria. A process server swears he recently spotted The Daily Stormer’s publisher at a grocery store in his native Ohio.
Anglin’s whereabouts — a key issue in a pair of lawsuits he faces — may not remain a mystery much longer.
A federal judge in Montana has warned Anglin’s attorneys that he won’t tolerate any “game-playing” and expects him to disclose where he has been residing, according to a court transcript obtained by The Associated Press.
Marc Randazza, one of Anglin’s lawyers, told U.S. Magistrate Jeremiah Lynch during a Dec. 14 pretrial conference that he didn’t know where his client is.
Anglin’s site takes its name from Der Stürmer, a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda. It has struggled to stay online since Anglin published a post mocking a woman killed in a deadly car attack at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.
“I can represent that he is outside of the United States,” Randazza said, according to the transcript. “I had asked him where he is situated, and he changes locations regularly, and I don’t know his whereabouts.”
Montana real estate agent Tanya Gersh sued Anglin in April, accusing him of orchestrating an anti-Semitic internet trolling campaign that terrorized her family amid her dispute with the mother of a leading white nationalist. Months passed before Anglin’s lawyers formally responded to the suit, arguing the First Amendment protects his posts calling for a “troll storm” against Gersh.
Anglin’s attorneys have argued the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the case — and therefore must dismiss it — because Anglin is “not a citizen of any state.” In a Nov. 30 court filing, they cited a CNN report that included Anglin’s oft-repeated claim that he is living in Lagos, Nigeria.
The judge told Randazza he should “emphasize to Mr. Anglin there’s not going to be any game-playing here.”
“I don’t want to be perceived as being an advocate, but he’s going to have to detail what his travels have been, what his changes in location have been, because as you know, ultimately, again, I have an independent obligation to determine whether there’s jurisdiction here. The ultimate question is his domicile,” the judge said.
Gersh’s lawyers accuse Anglin of playing a “childish game of hide-and-seek” and cite evidence he is living in the Columbus, Ohio, area.
Jeffrey Cremeans, a process server hired by Tanya Gersh’s attorneys from the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a sworn affidavit that he was shopping at a grocery store in a Columbus suburb on Dec. 10 when he saw a man who strongly resembles Anglin at a self-checkout register.
“He appeared very paranoid, looking over his shoulder,” Cremeans’ affidavit says.
Cremeans said he asked the man if his name is Andrew.
“The man replied ‘Nope’ and then quickly fled the store,” he said. Cremeans said he was “absolutely certain” it was Anglin, but couldn’t serve him with the suit because he was on a personal errand and didn’t have the paperwork.
Anglin later mocked the process server’s claim in social media posts.
“There are 2 million people in Columbus metro area. A process server happens by coincidence to run into me in a checkout line,” he wrote on his Gab account. “No one (expletive) believes this. It is statistically impossible.”
Gersh says her family received a barrage of threatening and harassing emails, phone calls and other messages after Anglin published their personal information, including her 12-year-old son’s Twitter handle and photo. In a string of posts that began last December, Anglin accused Gersh and other Jewish residents of Whitefish, Montana, of engaging in an “extortion racket” against the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Gersh’s lawsuit said she agreed to help Spencer’s mother sell commercial property she owns in Whitefish amid talk of a protest outside the building. Sherry Spencer, however, later accused Gersh of threatening and harassing her into agreeing to sell the property.
During the Dec. 14 discussion, one of Gersh’s lawyers said they will be exploring whether others — including Richard Spencer — “may have participated in the decision-making process to start the troll storm” and therefore “might bear liability for the actions at issue here.”
Anglin faces a separate federal lawsuit filed in Ohio by Muslim-American radio host Dean Obeidallah, who says Anglin falsely labeled him as the “mastermind” behind a deadly bombing at a concert in England. Anglin hasn’t responded to that suit.