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Car dealership owner awarded millions following “Taliban Toyota” smear

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Iranian-born Shawn Esfahani, a naturalized U.S. citizen and owner of Eastern Shore Toyota in Daphne, Alabama, has been awarded $7.5 million in damages by a sympathetic jury after employees of a rival dealership, Bob Tyler Toyota of Pensacola, Florida, falsely told customers he was an Islamic militant with terrorist ties.

According to the lawsuit, Bob Tyler sales manager Fred Kenner was stooping pretty damn low, referring to Esfahan's dealership as "Taliban Toyota," and telling at least one shopping couple in 2009 that his automotive competitor was of Middle Eastern descent and funding insurgents there, as well as laundering money for them.

Another salesman from the classy Bob Tyler outfit supposedly told the same couple that Esfahani hailed from Iraq and was a dangerous "terrorist." The suit claims that the salesman had told them "[Esfahani] is funneling money back to his family and other terrorists. I have a brother over there and what you're doing is helping kill my brother."

The jury ultimately awarded Esfahani $5 million in punitive damages, as well as an additional $2.5 million in compensatory damages after three hours of jury deliberation. But the plaintiff's focus was less on the money and more on redressing the slander; he told the press, "The feeling I received in the courtroom for the truth to come out was worth a lot more than any money anybody can give me."

It's encouraging to see verdicts such as this upholding bedrock American values in a post-911 climate where anti-Islamist bias is more rampant than ever, where you can find radio ads such as this, deep in the heart of Texas. And not to sound like Seinfeld, but what's the deal with these business rivalries lately? Two firebug Domino's managers burning down a Papa John's a couple weeks ago? Couldn't they have just tried giving away some Twisty Bread or something?