Rudy Giuliani hit with $148M verdict for defaming two Georgia election workers

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WASHINGTON — Rudy Giuliani should pay a pair of Georgia election workers he repeatedly and falsely accused of fraud $148 million in damages, a federal jury said Friday.

The eight-person jury awarded Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, the sum after a four-day trial, during which they testified that Giuliani’s lies in support of former President Donald Trump’s bogus stolen-election claims subjected them to a torrent of racist and violent threats and turned their lives upside down.

The amount awarded to Freeman and Moss was for three different kinds of damages — defamation, punitive and emotional distress. The plaintiffs were awarded $20 million each for emotional distress, and $75 million between them in punitive damages. Freeman was separately awarded just over $16 million in defamation damages, while Moss was awarded almost $17 million.

Giuliani called the dollar amount “absurd” and told reporters he would appeal.

Freeman testified Wednesday that she was terrorized by Trump supporters and forced to move from her home because of Giuliani’s smears. “I was scared to come home at dark, you know,” a visibly emotional Freeman said on the witness stand. “I was just scared, I knew I had to move.”

Their attorney, Michael Gottlieb, said in his closing argument that Giuliani had “no right to offer up defenseless civil servants up to a virtual mob in order to overturn an election.” He urged the jurors to “send a message” with their verdict.

He said the mother and daughter should each get at least $24 million in damages for Giuliani’s defamatory statements, as well as additional money for intentional infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages claims.

Rudy Giuliani speaks reporters outside the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, on Aug. 23, 2023.Christian Monterrosa / AFP via . file

Giuliani, who led Trump’s legal team after his 2020 election loss, initially said he would testify in the case, but ultimately decided against it.

In his opening statement, Giuliani attorney Joseph Sibley said a large verdict would be the “civil equivalent of the death penalty” for his client. “It would be the end of Mr. Giuliani,” Sibley said.

He acknowledged in his closing argument that “my client has committed wrongful conduct against” the pair and had “harmed” them, but asked the jury to keep in mind the good Giuliani had done in his lifetime.

He told them the message he believed they should send is, “You should have been better, but you’re not as bad as the plaintiffs are making you out to be.”

The only issue the jury had to determine was money damages.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in August found Giuliani liable for defaming the pair after the defendant repeatedly snubbed court orders to turn over required evidence to Freeman and Moss.

“Just as taking shortcuts to win an election carries risks — even potential criminal liability — bypassing the discovery process carries serious sanctions,” she added.

Giuliani had repeatedly accused the pair of election fraud in the wake of Trump’s loss in Georgia, and circulated a brief, heavily edited clip of security footage that he told a legislative committee in Georgia showed them passing USB drives “like vials of heroin or cocaine” during ballot-counting operations. Moss said the “USB drive” was actually a ginger mint.

Despite findings from the pair’s former bosses and a yearslong investigation that they did nothing wrong, Giuliani has continued to accuse them of being fraudsters. In remarks to reporters after the first day of trial on Monday, Giuliani said, “When I testify, you’ll get the whole story, and it will be definitively clear what I said was true.”

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