Jury Orders Giuliani to Pay $148 Million to Election Workers He Defamed
"Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, wrongfully accused by Rudolph W. Giuliani of having tried to steal votes from Donald J. Trump in Georgia, were awarded the damages by a federal court in Washington.
A jury on Friday ordered Rudolph W. Giuliani to pay $148 million to two former Georgia election workers who said he had destroyed their reputations with lies that they tried to steal the 2020 election from Donald J. Trump.
Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington had already ruled that Mr. Giuliani had defamed the two workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. The jury had been asked to decide only on the amount of the damages.
The jury awarded Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss a combined $75 million in punitive damages. It also ordered Mr. Giuliani to pay compensatory damages of $16.2 million to Ms. Freeman and $16.9 million to Ms. Moss, as well as $20 million to each of them for emotional suffering.
“Today’s a good day,” Ms. Freeman told reporters after the jury delivered its determination. But she added that no amount of money would give her and her daughter back what they lost in the abuse they suffered after Mr. Giuliani falsely accused them of manipulating the vote count.
Mr. Giuliani, who helped lead Mr. Trump’s effort to remain in office after his defeat in the 2020 election but has endured a string of legal and financial setbacks since then, was defiant after the proceeding.
“I don’t regret a damn thing,” he said outside the courthouse, suggesting that he would appeal and that he stood by his assertions about the two women.
He said that the torrent of attacks and threats the women received from Trump supporters were “abominable” and “deplorable,” but that he was not responsible for them.
His lawyer, Joseph Sibley IV, had also argued that Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and federal prosecutor, should not be held responsible for abuse directed to Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss by others.
Mr. Sibley had warned that an award of the scale being sought by the women would be the civil equivalent of the death penalty for his client. Outside the courthouse on Friday, Mr. Giuliani called the amount “absurd.”
Mr. Giuliani’s net worth is unknown because he refused to comply with the court’s requirement to provide that information. A lawyer familiar with his legal situation said after the verdict that Mr. Giuliani was likely to file for bankruptcy protection. But because the damages he owes Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss are considered an “intentional tort,” bankruptcy would not erase his liability, lawyers said.
The case brought against Mr. Giuliani was one of a series of lawsuits in which plaintiffs have sought to use defamation claims to hold people accountable for lying about the 2020 election.
Dominion Voting Systems wrested a $787.5 million settlement out of Fox News earlier this year after suing the media giant for promoting lies that its voting machines were used in a conspiracy to flip votes away from Mr. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr.
In October, a judge in Atlanta ruled that a Georgia man was allowed to continue his defamation claims against the right-wing author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza on claims that he had been wrongly accused of voter fraud in Mr. D’Souza’s book and film, “2000 Mules.”
Over hours of emotional testimony during the civil trial in Washington, Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss described how their lives had been completely upended after Dec. 3, 2020, when Mr. Giuliani first suggested that they had engaged in election fraud to tilt the result against Mr. Trump in Georgia, a critical swing state.
The women, who are Black and are mother and daughter, were soon flooded with expletive-laden phone calls and messages, threats, and racist attacks, they testified. People said they should be hanged for treason or lynched; others told them they fantasized about hearing the sound of their necks snapping.
They showed up at Ms. Freeman’s home. They tried to execute a citizen’s arrest of Ms. Moss at her grandmother’s house. They called Ms. Moss’s 14-year-old son’s cellphone so much that it interfered with his virtual classes, and he finished his first year of high school with failing grades.
“This all started with one tweet,” Ms. Freeman told the jury, referring to a social media post from Mr. Giuliani saying, “WATCH: Video footage from Georgia shows suitcases filled with ballots pulled from under a table AFTER supervisors told poll workers to leave room and 4 people stayed behind to keep counting votes.”
Mr. Giuliani did not testify at the trial. He said afterward that was because “if I made any mistake or did anything wrong,” he thought the judge would hold him in contempt or put him in jail. “And I thought, honestly, it wouldn’t do me any good.”
Mr. Giuliani is under indictment in Georgia, where a local prosecutor has brought racketeering charges against him, Mr. Trump and others in connection with their efforts to overturn the former president’s election loss there.
Lawyers for Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss had asked the jury to send a message when deciding what Mr. Giuliani should pay.
“Send it to Mr. Giuliani,” one of the lawyers, Michael J. Gottlieb, said in his closing argument on Thursday. “Send it to any other powerful figure with a platform and an audience who is considering whether they will take the chance to seek profit and fame by assassinating the moral character of ordinary people.”
Ms. Moss said she and her mother would continue to fight for justice.
“Our greatest wish is that no election worker or voter or school board member or anyone else ever experiences anything like what we went through,” she said.
Alan Feuer contributed reporting."