A federal jury on Friday ordered former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to pay $148 million to two former Georgia election workers at the center of baseless claims he spread in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, a stunning award worth nearly $100 million more than the women had sought.
Before reaching a ruling, the jury of eight Washington, D.C., residents deliberated for approximately 10 hours on Thursday and Friday. In the civil trial against Giuliani, who worked as former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer near the end of his term, jurors heard four days of emotional evidence.
Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, sued Giuliani for falsely claiming they participated in a bogus ballot processing scam while working as poll workers for Fulton County in the last presidential election.
A federal court in Washington ruled earlier this year that Giuliani was liable for defaming Freeman and Moss, and the jury was charged with deciding how much compensatory and punitive damages to pay the mother-and-daughter duo. For slander, Freeman claimed $23.9 million in compensatory damages, while Moss wanted $24.7 million.
The judges gave the following awards:
- $16,171,000 in compensatory damages for defamation to Freeman;
- $16,998,000 in compensatory damages for defamation to Moss;
- $20 million each, for a total of $40 million in compensatory damages for emotional distress;
- and $75 million in punitive damages for both Giuliani remained defiant after the verdict was read in court.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, he called the threats received by the women “abominable” and “deplorable,” but he maintained his unsubstantiated charges of voter fraud and vowed to fight the judgment.
“The absurdity of the number merely underscores the absurdity of the entire proceeding,” he remarked. “I’m quite confident that when this case gets before a fair tribunal, it will be reversed so quickly it’ll make your head spin, and the absurd number that just came in will help that.”
Giuliani’s financial worth and assets have fluctuated over the years, but according to a comment from his counsel earlier this week, they were currently estimated to be less than the $48.6 million sought by the ladies. According to Joe Sibley, an award of such an amount would be the “civil equivalent of the death penalty” for his client.
The Giuliani slander trial
Throughout the trial, jurors heard directly from Freeman and Moss as they detailed their dread of being thrown into the public eye following the 2020 election.
Moss said Tuesday that the absentee ballot processing team she led, which included her mother, did a “perfect job” examining the votes that came into their Atlanta site, State Farm Arena, during the election. Both the mother and daughter said their lives were turned upside down after a conservative website and Giuliani spotted them in ballot processing facility security camera footage and wrongly linked them to election fraud.
Giuliani said the video showed Freeman and Moss slipping a USB drive into election machines and adding phony ballots to the vote count in favor of Joe Biden. According to Freeman and Moss, what followed was a storm of racist threats.
The Georgia secretary of state’s investigation later ruled that “[a]ll allegations made against Freeman and Moss were unsubstantiated and found to have no merit.”
“Every single aspect of my life has changed,” Moss told the audience. “I’m most scared of my son finding me or my mom hanging in front of our house.”
Freeman testified Wednesday, through tears, about the hateful calls, emails, messages, and letters she and her small business got after being targeted online.
“I took it because they were going to cut me up, put me in a trash bag, and drag me out to my street,” she claimed of one of the notes she received. “I felt as if I was terrorized.”
“I hope the Federal Government hangs you and your daughter from the Capitol dome, you treasonous piece of s***!” “I hope to be sitting close enough to hear your necks snap,” one person said to Freeman in an email to her company.
Moss was passed over for a promotion and lost a job opportunity, while Freeman was forced to close her business and sell her home. The couple testified that they felt they had lost their identities.
Giuliani has suggested that he will testify in his defense and has stated publicly in recent days that he is unrelated to the violent threats. He ultimately declined to testify on Thursday, the final day of the hearing. Despite admitting early in the case that he made false comments about the couple, he continued to make them.
“Everything I said about them is true,” Giuliani said in a press conference on Monday. “They were engaged in changing the votes.” During the trial, jurors were shown a recording of the new accusations.
Judge Beryl Howell, who presided over the case and found in August that Giuliani defamed Freeman and Moss, and Giuliani’s defense counsel, Sibley, both voiced alarm about the comments.
During the trial, Sibley did not bring any of his own witnesses and told the jury that he was not arguing the harm caused by his client’s actions. Instead, he chose to spotlight the expert witnesses brought by the plaintiffs to compute the millions of dollars in damages, as well as other media sites and personalities who helped spread the lies.
“Rudy Giuliani is a good man… he hasn’t exactly helped himself” in recent days, the defense counsel argued during Thursday’s final remarks. “Rudy Giuliani shouldn’t be defined by what’s happened in recent times.”
The attorney blamed the Gateway Pundit, the first website to identify Freeman and Moss, for the initial harm they suffered, and showed the jury a complaint the duo had filed against the source.
“That’s how the names spread.” That’s how everyone knew who they were, according to Sibley.
However, the pair’s attorneys said that inserting conspiracy theories into media coverage was part of the Trump legal team’s goal.
On Wednesday, Freeman discussed a post-election communications campaign devised by Giuliani’s team, in which she stated that she will be a significant component utilized to cast doubt on the 2020 election. The advertising strategy mentioned a video of Freeman at the Fulton County ballot counting facility and said she was “ballot stuffing.”
“This was a plan from the start, that if… No. 45 didn’t win, that they had already set up this plan,” she claimed of Trump and his allies. She explained that the plan called for her to be their “culprit.”
The jury was asked to examine any losses inflicted by Giuliani’s defamation campaign co-conspirators, including Trump and other allies. Under questioning, Freeman stated that she heard Trump name her during a call with Georgia’s secretary of state in January 2021. During that exchange, the ex-president referred to her as a “professional vote scammer.”
“How cruel. How heinous. “I was just devastated,” said Freeman. “He had no clue what he was talking about.”
One of the two experts presented by the plaintiffs said that Giuliani and his co-conspirators’ lies about Freeman and Moss were seen millions of times online, necessitating a multimillion-dollar campaign to repair their reputation. However, Giuliani’s counsel argued for less compensation, claiming that such an endeavor would be futile since those who believed Giuliani’s lies would believe them “no matter what.”