Georgia election workers who sued Rudy Giuliani awarded default judgment in defamation case

Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss can be awarded punitive damages, a judge has ruled

Alex Woodward
Wednesday 30 August 2023 18:01 BST
Related video: Giuliani addresses press after being booked in Georgia election probe

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Two election workers in Georgia who sued Rudy Giuliani over baseless claims that fuelled threats of violence against them have been awarded a default judgment following the long-running defamation case against him.

Donald Trump’s former attorney, who has also been criminally charged in connection with the former president’s attempts to upend the 2020 presidential election, is liable for defamation claims from Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, as well claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and punitive damages.

Mr Giuliani repeatedly sought to avoid further scrutiny in the case, and the judge overseeing the case previously reprimanded him for his “seemingly incongruous and certainly puzzling caveats” after he appeared to admit that he made false and defamatory statements about the two women in an effort to dodge the revelation of potentially damning evidence.

“Donning a cloak of victimization may play well on a public stage to certain audiences, but in a court of law this performance has served only to subvert the normal process of discovery,” US District Judge Beryl Howell wrote on 30 August.

A trial will determine the amount of damages awarded, but Judge Howell’s order determines that Mr Giuliani is liable. He also is ordered to pay more than $132,000 in attorneys’ fees and other costs.

“Just as taking shortcuts to win an election carries risks – even potential criminal liability – bypassing the discovery process carries serious sanctions, no matter what reservations a noncompliant party may try artificially to preserve for appeal,” Judge Howell wrote in a 57-page opinion.

Mr Giuliani’s carefully worded stipulations – which he said were not his admission of lying – “hold more holes than Swiss cheese,” the judge added.

The “bottom line,” Judge Howell wrote, is that Mr Giuliani “refused to comply with his discovery obligations and thwarted plaintiffs ... procedural rights to obtain any meaningful discovery in this case.”

In their testimony to the House select committee investigating the events surrounding the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, Ms Freeman and Ms Moss revealed the depth of abuse they endured, forcing them from their jobs and making them feel unsafe after the former president and Mr Giuliani promoted debunked conspiracy theories involving them.

Those claims also are included in a federal indictment accusing Mr Trump of three criminal conspiracies and obstruction surrounding his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. One of the six unnamed co-conspirators in the indictment is believed to be Mr Giuliani.

The former New York City mayor is also charged alongside Mr Trump and 17 other co-defendants in a criminal case in Fulton County, Georgia, which details the alleged pressure campaign targeting the two women.

During a committee hearing in Georgia’s House of Representatives on 10 December 2020, Mr Giuliani baselessly accused the women of “quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they are vials of heroin or cocaine” and suggested that they were criminals whose “places of work, their homes, should have been searched for evidence of ballots, for evidence of USB ports, for evidence of voter fraud,” according to the federal indictment. Federal prosecutors added that women “received numerous death threats” after the hearing.

Shaye Moss, left, and her mother Ruby Freeman were awarded Presidential Citizens Medal honours at the White House in January.
Shaye Moss, left, and her mother Ruby Freeman were awarded Presidential Citizens Medal honours at the White House in January. (AP)

The Georgia indictment then details how several co-defendants traveled from out of state to harass Ms Freeman to “intimidate her and solicit her to falsely confess to election crimes that she did not commit,” according to the indictment.

“What we went through after the 2020 election was a living nightmare,” the women said in a joint statement shared with The Independent following the judge’s latest opinion.

“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,” they added.

A report from Georgia’s State Election Board following a year-long investigation also dismissed bogus claims of election fraud and cleared the allegations against the women.

In a statement shared with The Independent, Giuliani adviser Ted Goodman called Judge Howell’s ruling “a prime example of the weaponization of our justice system, where the process is the punishment.”

“This decision should be reversed, as Mayor Giuliani is wrongly accused of not preserving electronic evidence that was seized and held by the FBI,” he added.

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