An Oregon man who unleashed online attacks targeting the first black woman to serve as American University’s student government president has agreed to apologize, renounce white supremacy and confront his bigotry as part of a proposed legal settlement.
Evan James McCarty must give a “written, sincere, and thorough personal apology” to Taylor Dumpson, according to a settlement that awaits a judge’s approval.
Dumpson filed a federal lawsuit this year over a campaign of online harassment that targeted her after a racist incident involving bananas hanging on American’s campus.
“Our client is very pleased with the robust terms of relief that we secured with respect to this individual defendant,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Clarke, whose organization represented Dumpson in the lawsuit, called this week’s settlement “groundbreaking,” and said it could serve as a model for how to confront white supremacists.
“I firmly believe that this settlement that we secured is one that is unique and provides a way to address the looming crisis that we see across the country,” Clarke said. “We can’t just stand back and wait for prosecutors to develop the political will to go after these folks.”
Beyond the apology, she said, McCarty must cooperate in future efforts to prosecute white supremacists and provide information about hateful activity and online trolling. He is no longer allowed to take part in such cyberactivity, including trolling and “doxing” — making public private or identifiable information about an entity or individual — and must complete 200 hours of community service.
“Our family has sincere empathy for Ms. Dumpson and is profoundly sorry for the harm caused her,” Deb and James McCarty, the defendant’s parents, said in a statement speaking on behalf of McCarty and his family. “Evan, our son, feels deep regret about his actions and is committed to making changes and moving forward in a positive way.”
McCarty has “completely ceased all involvement with and disengaged with the ideology of the alt-right,” his parents said, and has been working with counselors.
“He is a different person than he was when he hid behind an alias and was persuaded into hateful activity on the Internet, and recognizes its potential for harm it does to others,” the statement said.
In May 2017, bananas were found hanging at three locations on American’s campus. The fruit had been marked with “AKA,” the letters for the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, and hung from string fashioned “in the shape of nooses,” according to the school. Officials at American called the incident racist, and its president at the time decried it as a “cowardly, despicable act.”
The bananas were found on Dumpson’s first full day in office, and the incident thrust her into the spotlight. No arrests were made in connection to the matter. In April, Sylvia M. Burwell, American’s president, said “all credible leads” had been exhausted.
“As an institution of higher learning, we share a commitment to build a culture that holds human dignity and respect as core values,” American University spokesman Mark Story said in a statement this week. “We are pleased for Taylor that a settlement in this case was reached with some measure of accountability for one of those who sought to sow fear and hate.”
Dumpson’s lawsuit took aim at McCarty, whom she alleged harassed her on Twitter during the ordeal. It also named other defendants, including Andrew Anglin, founder of the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website. Anglin, who is not part of the settlement, did not respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.
After the bananas were found at American, Dumpson alleged, Anglin posted an article about her and the incident online and encouraged his followers to “troll storm” her. He included Dumpson’s name, picture and links to her Facebook page and the Twitter page of American University’s student government. Dumpson was harassed online with a barrage of racist and hateful messages.
“As Defendant Anglin intended, a troll storm ensued. . . . Instead of celebrating her achievement as American University’s first African American female student government president, Ms. Dumpson found herself fearing for her safety as intimidating comments poured in,” the lawsuit stated.
McCarty, whose Twitter messages were included in the initial complaint, was among those who posted online about Dumpson and American. Anglin’s article and the subsequent online harassment led Dumpson, who has since graduated from American, to suffer emotional distress, the lawsuit stated. She was “constantly scared of being harassed and stalked online,” according to the complaint.
“Taylor Dumpson suffered, gravely, at the hands of people who unleashed this racist troll campaign on her,” Clarke said. “She suffered emotionally, she suffered anxiety that impacted her performance in school. But at the end of the day, she chose not to cower in fear.”
McCarty’s mother said she and her husband were unaware of the incident that occurred at American and the subsequent “troll storm” until the lawsuit. Their son started counseling before the settlement was reached, she said.
“At this time, Evan is focused on continuing to make progress, pursuing his education, contributing to his community and committed to making amends,” Deb and James McCarty’s statement said.