Rudy Giuliani, former lawyer for Trump, will face a jury trial to determine the amount of financial compensation he must pay to two Georgia election workers. The court found Giuliani liable for spreading conspiracy theories about their involvement in fabricating ballots.
In an unconventional decision released on Wednesday, a federal judge in Washington declared a default judgment against Giuliani in the civil defamation lawsuit brought by Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell stated in her ruling that Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney, had disregarded his duty to present evidence in the case, leading to the judgment against him for “willful discovery misconduct.”
Judge Howell’s decision exacerbates Giuliani’s legal and monetary troubles. Earlier this month, his legal team mentioned in a court filing that he faced “financial challenges” and required more time to settle a $90,000 penalty previously imposed by Howell. Meanwhile, Trump is scheduled to host a fundraising dinner priced at $100,000 per plate in support of his former lawyer on September 7 at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Ted Goodman, a spokesperson for Giuliani, criticized the ruling on Wednesday, characterizing it as an instance of weaponizing the justice system. Goodman stated in a press release that the judgment should be overturned because Mayor Giuliani was wrongly accused of not preserving electronic evidence seized and held by the FBI.
Freeman and Moss, a mother and daughter, are represented by Protect Democracy, a nonprofit based in Washington, and the law firms Willkie Farr & Gallagher and DuBose Miller. The two women issued a joint statement regarding the ruling as a step toward justice. According to the two Plaintiffs, the fight to rebuild their reputation is not over. “But today, we’re one step closer, and for that, we are grateful.”
On the night of the 2020 election, Freeman and Moss were among the poll workers who tallied ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Giuliani propagated a theory using selectively edited video footage, alleging that the two women removed ballots from suitcases beneath tables. Former President Donald Trump also endorsed the baseless claims involving Moss and Freeman.
Georgia election officials debunked these allegations. Security footage illustrated that vote counting hadn’t concluded for the night and that the “suitcases” were standard containers for ballots. In December 2021, Moss and Freeman filed a lawsuit asserting that Giuliani sullied their reputations and subjected them to a surge of death threats.
According to a disciplinary panel in DC, Giuliani’s “frivolous” efforts to reverse the 2020 presidential election are cause for his disbarrement. Giuliani is also a co-defendant with Trump in the racketeering case led by Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis. In this lawsuit, multiple defendants face charges for participating in a harassment campaign that led to threats against Moss and Freeman.
Giuliani’s spokesman, Goodman, claimed that the indictment in Georgia “undermines the First Amendment and criminalizes the primary political opponent of the ruling regime for daring to question the 2020 election results.”
In a court filing the previous month, Giuliani conceded that he would not contest Freeman and Moss’s assertion that he falsely accused them of manipulating votes in the 2020 election. Nonetheless, this declaration did not bring the lawsuit to a close. Giuliani stated in the filing that he “holds the belief that he still possesses legal defenses” in the case, including the notion that his statements are constitutionally safeguarded expressions or opinions. Additionally, Giuliani expressed his intention to challenge the requirement to compensate Moss and Freeman for damages.
Judge Howell criticized Giuliani’s maneuvers, stating that his flawed stipulations held “more holes than Swiss cheese.” The judge pointed out that Giuliani had attempted to circumvent the discovery process and a trial on the merits—where his defenses could be comprehensively examined and tested through the judicial system’s established adversarial process—and to prolong such an equitable assessment by banking on an appeal, grounded in the limited record he forced upon the plaintiffs.
According to Judge Howell’s ruling, the case will proceed to trial to determine the damages Giuliani must pay. The trial is scheduled for sometime between November 2023 and February 2024.