Your trusted source for contextualizing politics news. Sign up for our daily newsletter.
Lawyer Rudy Giuliani is liable for defaming two former Georgia election workers, a court in Washington, D.C., ruled.
Federal Judge Beryl Howell ruled Wednesday that Giuliani, an ex-personal attorney to former President Donald Trump, had defamed Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, election workers in Fulton County who are mother and daughter, and made false statements when he accused them of participating in election fraud.
Howell’s three-page ruling entered a default judgment finding Giuliani liable for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and punitive damage claims. The court ordered Giuliani to cover Freeman’s and Moss’ attorney fees associated with discovery in the case. Giuliani will also have to pay punitive damages; that amount will be determined by a jury trial.
Howell instructed the jury to consider that Giuliani was “intentionally trying to hide relevant discovery about his financial assets for the purpose of artificially deflating his net worth” in determining punitive damages.
Freeman and Moss filed suit in December 2021 against Giuliani, saying he defamed them with false public statements that accused them of pulling ballots out of suitcases and tampering with the vote count at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Multiple recounts and audits affirmed President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 election in Georgia, and there is no evidence the two women acted improperly.
Both women, who are Black, said they were inundated with harassment and threats in the wake of Trump’s and Giuliani’s false accusations against them. The two women are also suing the Gateway Pundit, a right-wing website, and its founders for defamation in a civil case playing out in Missouri.
“What we went through after the 2020 election was a living nightmare,” Freeman and Moss said in a Wednesday statement following Howell’s ruling. “Rudy Giuliani helped unleash a wave of hatred and threats we never could have imagined. It cost us our sense of security and our freedom to go about our lives. Nothing can restore all we lost, but today’s ruling is yet another neutral finding that has confirmed what we have known all along: that there was never any truth to any of the accusations about us and that we did nothing wrong.”
Howell denied Giuliani’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit in October 2022, and Giuliani had recently conceded in stipulations to the court that he had made false statements about the two women, though he said the concessions were intended to move the case forward and maintained his statements were constitutionally protected.
“While Giuliani does not admit to Plaintiffs’ allegations, he — for purposes of this litigation only — does not contest the factual allegations,” he said in a July 26 filing.
Freeman and Moss’ lawsuits highlighted the often gendered and racialized nature of threats against election workers, who are predominantly women. Threats against Freeman, Moss and other women election officials in 2020 underscored the lack of legal recourse for election workers who experience threats to their safety.
Both women testified to the House January 6 Committee about the impact on their lives of the threats and false accusations.
“I’ve lost my name, and I lost my reputation,” Freeman testified. “I’ve lost my sense of security. All because a group of people, starting with [Trump], and his ally Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me and my daughter.”
Guiliani is also one of 19 defendants in a sweeping criminal racketeering case out of Fulton County charging Trump, his allies and other GOP officials with participating in a scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.
Three other defendants in that case, including a former leader of Black Voices for Trump and an ex-publicist for R. Kelly, are also charged with soliciting false statements and influencing witnesses by harassing and intimidating Freeman to confess to false claims of election fraud.