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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 12, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 46
Shirvell fired over attack on Gay University of Michigan student
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Shirvell fired over attack on Gay University of Michigan student

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Andrew Shirvell, the assistant attorney general under fire for his attacks on a University of Michigan student, was fired on November 8.

According to the Associated Press, Shirvell was let go during a disciplinary hearing related to the issue. The attorney general's office originally held that the First Amendment protected Shirvell.

Shirvell came into the public consciousness in September for his vehement criticism of Chris Armstrong, who is the University of Michigan's first openly Gay student assembly president. Shirvell created a blog called 'Chris Armstrong Watch' and frequented the university campus to heckle Armstrong, taking issue with what he perceived as the student's 'radical homosexual agenda.' Shirvell also called Armstrong a 'Nazi' and 'Satan's representative on the assembly.'

Shirvell has said he's done nothing wrong and was simply expressing his free-speech rights. He took a leave of absence from the attorney general's office last month. He was later suspended.

Until now, Shirvell has won battles. Armstrong dropped a request for a personal protection order in Washtenaw court. The Washtenaw County Prosecutor's office declined to file a stalking charge against Shirvell, saying that while Shirvell's comments 'are offensive and mean-spirited,' they don't meet the definition of harassment under Michigan's stalking statute.

The University of Michigan also essentially lifted Shirvell's ban from campus, allowing Shirvell on campus but requiring him to stay away from Armstrong.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said he fired Shirvell for conduct unbecoming a state employee - especially that of an assistant attorney general.

'To be clear, I refuse to fire anyone for exercising their First Amendment rights, regardless of how popular or unpopular their positions might be. However, Shirvell repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior, and inappropriately used state resources, our investigation showed.'

Among the examples cited by Cox in the statement:

o Showed up at the home of a private citizen three times, including once at 1:30 a.m. That incident is especially telling because it clearly was about harassing Mr. Armstrong, not engaging in free speech.

o Further engaged in behavior that, while not perhaps sufficient to warrant a charge of criminal stalking, was harassing, uninvited, and showed a pattern very much like stalking.

o Harassing Armstrong's friends as they were socializing in Ann Arbor.

o Numerous calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, Armstrong's employer, in an attempt to slander Armstrong. These calls ultimately attempted to persuade Pelosi to fire Armstrong.

o Attempting to 'out' Armstrong's friends - straight and Gay alike - as homosexuals.

Cox said Shirvell engaged in his campaign against Armstrong on company time and posted attacks on the student on the internet while at work.

'Finally, Shirvell lied to investigating assistant attorneys general on several occasions during his disciplinary hearing,' said Cox.

In the wake of all the online harassment, Armstrong filed complaints with the Michigan Grievance Commission, asking it to investigate Shirvell and possibly disbar him.

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