TROLL WHISPERER

The Lawyer Fighting for the Fringes, From Porn to Neo-Nazis

Marc Randazza calls himself a ‘libtard’ proud to defend some of the most noxious figures on the right, but swears he hasn’t been red-pilled.

Courtesy Lara Zanellato

Attorney Marc Randazza sounded surprised when I described him as being known for representing a neo-Nazi. “I guess it’s a change from the years when every headline called me a porn lawyer,” he said.

Randazza’s no stranger to outlandish headlines. A lawyer specializing in First Amendment issues, he  came to fame representing porn companies before falling out with his main porn client, with various sides alleging bribery and backseat blowjobs, that left him bankrupt. Since then, he’s taken on a number of far-right clients, including Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin, the alt-right site GotNews and its founder Chuck Johnson, right-wing internet personality Mike Cernovich, and the alt right-beloved forum 8chan. Last month, he also entered the case of alt-righters and neo-Nazis accused of conspiracy to riot in Charlottesville.

Randazza, who described himself as a “libtard” but retweets far-right personalities, says his extremist clientele is just the cost of doing business defending free speech.

“Usually if there is a First Amendment defense case, for some time it would be pretty rare to see it discussed and somebody doesn’t suggest to the defendant that they should talk to me,” Randazza told The Daily Beast. “The more unpopular the speaker, I think the more likely it is that they say ‘get Randazza.’”

If that’s the case, Anglin is his archetypical client.

Anglin is facing a lawsuit from Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real estate agent from white nationalist Richard Spencer’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana. In December 2016, Gersh withdrew from a real estate deal with Spencer’s mother. (Gersh said she changed her mind; Spencer’s mother said Gersh asked her to denounce her son’s views and donate to charity.) Anglin seized on the dispute and published a Daily Stormer post with the address and contact information for Gersh and her family.

“Jews Targeting Richard Spencer’s Mother for Harassment and Extortion — TAKE ACTION!” Anglin wrote, encouraging his anti-Semitic readers to “stop by.”

The result was what Anglin described as a “troll storm” during which his readers allegedly sent Gersh more than 700 harassing messages, including recordings of gunshots, threats, slurs against her 12-year-old son, and a barrage of calls that forced Gersh’s husband to temporarily shutter his law practice.

The more unpopular the speaker, I think the more likely it is that they say ‘get Randazza.’
Marc Randazza

Gersh is suing Anglin for allegedly invading her privacy and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. The case comes down to whether Anglin’s publication of Gersh’s address and call for his anti-semitic followers to take “action” against her was an attempt to inflict harm, or, as Randazza claims, protected speech.

“People who say that Andrew Anglin should be held legally liable for hurting Tanya Gersh’s feelings, I ask is that really the rule you want?” Randazza said. “Because the first person I’m going to use that against is going to be you.”

Randazza has argued on behalf of other fringe-right figures. In addition to Cernovich and 8chan, Randazza is currently representing conservative troll Chuck Johnson and his site GotNews, which is being sued by the family of a teenager they incorrectly identified as having driven a car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last August. A lawyer from his firm, the Randazza Legal Group, represented Johnson in a lawsuit against the news site Gawker, and another lawyer from the group represented white nationalist Richard Spencer’s booking agent in a failed effort to compel Penn State University to host one of Spencer’s talks. In Spencer’s case, Randazza’s colleague worked alongside Kyle Bristow, an open alt-righter who left the movement in March after a Detroit Free Press article on his ties to white nationalists.

Last month, Randazza entered an ongoing civil case against the group of alt-righters, neo-Nazis and, neo-Confederates accused of organizing Unite the Right, although his clients currently remain anonymous in court filings. Randazza said he had been retained by potential witnesses or defendants who are arguing to remain anonymous in the face of a subpoena against them.

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“I may represent Andrew Anglin,” Randazza said. “I also very proudly represent [performance artist and faux-political candidate] Vermin Supreme. I also very proudly represent [civil rights attorney] Lisa Bloom. I also very proudly represent the Muslim American Women’s Political Action Committee.”

But the trend of far-right clients has bought Randazza a new fan base, which he says he rejects.

“Look, once in a while, I have these people who reach out to me with something I consider to be pretty objectionable,” he said. “I can’t remember exactly what it was, but someone reached out to me and said ‘good job fighting the Jews.’ I said ‘you’ve got the wrong guy, man.’ He said ‘well I’m a big fan, anyway,’ and I said ‘well I reject your fandom. I’m really not interested in it.’”

Randazza said his politics skew left (“I’m what a lot of people would call a libtard, and I’m proud of it”). But one might guess otherwise from his Twitter feed, where he’s recently retweeted the likes of Cernovich and alleged “cult” leader-turned-alt-right YouTuber Stefan Molyneux, both of whom have pushed misogynistic teachings. He recently tweeted that “those who are sometimes called ‘alt right’ are some of the most open and accepting of diverse views people I’ve met in politics.”

Someone reached out to me and said ‘good job fighting the Jews.’ I said ‘you’ve got the wrong guy, man.’
Marc Randazza

I asked Randazza if he was deliberately presenting himself on Twitter as an ally to potential clients on the right.

“Stefan Molyneux may not be the most popular person in the liberal party,” he said, “but sometimes he makes sense, sometimes I don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about, and sometimes I think he’s dead wrong, but I’m not going to be one of these people who says ‘if Stefan Molyneux says it, or if [Proud Boys leader] Gavin McInnes says it, it’s something I have to reject out of hand because of who said it.’

In January Randazza was spotted at “A Night For Freedom,” an alt-right-heavy event in Manhattan organized by Cernovich, where Molyneux and McInnes delivered speeches railing against  immigrant birth rates and transgender people, respectively.

Cernovich is “an A-plus level friend, and the kind of rare soul now where you can really trust his word as his bond,” Randazza said. “I don’t care what his political beliefs are, or are interpreted as, so if Mike’s having a party, I’m there.”

Until recently, he said, his biggest fans were on the left.

“Not very long ago, most of the people who shouted my name with praise were on the left because I took up the fight for porn companies against right-wing forces who wanted to shut them down,” he said, “whether it was working against the federal government’s attempts to shut down pornography or a lot of municipalities and local governments trying to shut that thing down in the name of local right-wing Christian politics.”

That’s an abbreviated history of his time representing porn companies.

Beginning in 2009, Randazza’s main client was Liberty Media, a porn studio that made predominantly gay porn. Much of his work entailed chasing rival porn companies that uploaded Liberty’s videos without permission. But three years into the partnership, Randazza and Liberty turned on each other. Randazza accused two Liberty execs of having oral sex in the back of his car while he was driving, and accused the company of shooting a porno in his office, which he described as “harassment.”

Liberty said Randazza had given them permission for the shoot, as evidenced by a text he allegedly sent beforehand, in which he joked “don’t jizz on my briefs”. The porn company pushed its own case against Randazza, claiming he quietly worked with other porn and internet companies that Liberty might have sued for copyright infringement. Liberty claimed Randazza solicited bribes from those companies, in exchange for him talking Liberty out of suing them. In an email unearthed by Ars Technica, Randazza pressured one company for $75,000 "for a settlement with me personally,” in exchange for avoiding a lawsuit.

A court-appointed arbiter concluded the money was a “bribe,” although Randazza denied the claim, calling his demands for money “a bluff, to increase available settlement funds.” Randazza never got the $75,000, but the arbiter sided with Liberty in June 2015 and ordered Randazza to pay the company more than $600,000.

Randazza filed for bankruptcy. No longer “the porn lawyer,” he took up other headline-grabbing cases, including those of Anglin and his compatriots on the right. He also took up cases that looked like an inversion of cases like Anglin’s call to harassment against Gersh, and the misidentification of a murderer by Chuck Johnson’s right-wing news site.

Last month, he announced a lawsuit against Twitter on behalf of the Satanic Temple. The Satanists’ feud with the social media giant began when a Twitter user threatened to burn down their temple. Instead of taking action against the person who made the threat, Twitter suspended two accounts belonging to the Temple of Satan’s leaders.

Last year, he represented Laura Hunter, a former beauty queen whose picture and name were co-opted by a far-right conspiracy news outlet. The case was settled out of court.

"At least in a lot of the cases that I get involved in, you can at least look at it and understand the logic behind some of the poor decisions," Randazza told the Washington Post of the case last year. "Here, I just don't know."Does he ever have a fit of conscience over his current crop of clients?

“No, not all,” Randazza said. “If you’re a First Amendment attorney, and you say ‘this person’s speech is good enough for me, but this person’s isn’t,’ you’re doing it wrong.”