Protection request against anti-gay lawyer dropped

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The gay student government president at the University of Michigan dropped a request Monday for a personal protection order against an assistant state attorney general who heckled his speeches and criticized him on a blog.

Chris Armstrong’s lawyer notified the Washtenaw County Circuit Court he was withdrawing the request just hours before an afternoon court hearing.

Armstrong had accused Andrew Shirvell of videotaping a late-night party at his off-campus house, showing up at campus appearances with a sign that said “racist” and “liar,” and lambasting him as someone with a “radical homosexual agenda” on his blog.

“The petition for a personal protection order was dismissed by Chris Armstrong because he received assurance that he will no longer be contacted by Andrew Shirvell,” Armstrong’s lawyer, U. Ashwin Patel, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Patel said Armstrong “would like to focus on his classes, finishing his senior year and his work with” student government.

Shirvell, a University of Michigan alumnus, referred calls to his lawyer, Philip Thomas, who predicted he would have won the argument against a protection order “hands down.”

Thomas said Shirvell has had no contact with Armstrong for weeks since the protection request was filed Sept. 13. He is on personal leave from his state job until Nov. 5, when he faces a disciplinary hearing.

“I don’t believe Andrew has done or said anything that wasn’t constitutionally protected,” Thomas said. “Everything Andrew has done has been on his own time. ... If someone could get a PPO against Andrew, then why wouldn’t the Democratic Party get a PPO against Rush Limbaugh for what he says about our president?

“That’s not what America is about. People have free-speech rights.”

In his request to keep Shirvell away, Armstrong said the lawyer’s actions had been “incredibly hurtful and distressing.”

After learning Armstrong had a summer internship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Shirvell called her office and asked the internship coordinator “if he knew I was a racist,” Armstrong said in a court filing.

Shirvell also attended a Michigan Student Assembly meeting in September and asked that Armstrong be impeached.

Thomas argued that Armstrong decided to get involved in campus politics and shouldn’t be surprised that some people don’t like him.

University of Michigan police have threatened to ticket Shirvell for trespassing if he comes on campus, said Thomas, who is trying to have the warning overturned now that the protection order request has been withdrawn.

Separately, Shirvell faces a hearing next week with his superiors at the attorney general’s office in Lansing. The hearing is closed to the public.

Attorney General Mike Cox “has concerns about the actions that’s he’s read about on the blog and what we’ve heard about as far as the trespassing issue with the University of Michigan,” spokesman John Sellek said.

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