WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Wednesday held Rudy Giuliani liable in a defamation suit brought by two Georgia election officials saying they were falsely accused of fraud, and issued a default judgment against the former New York City mayor and ordered him to pay tens of thousands of dollars. dollars in attorney’s fees.
US District Judge Beryl Howell said the penalty was necessary because Giuliani neglected his duty as a defendant to turn over information requested by election staff Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Andrea Archie Moss, as part of the lawsuit.
Their complaint, filed in December 2021, accused Giuliani, an attorney for Donald Trump and a confidant of the former Republican president, of defaming them by falsely stating that they participated in fraud during vote counting at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta. In a statement on Wednesday, the women said they had endured an “alive nightmare” and an unimaginable “wave of hate and threats” because of Giuliani’s comments.
“Nothing can bring back all we have lost, but today’s verdict is another impartial conclusion confirming what we have known all along: that there was absolutely no truth to any of the accusations leveled against us, and that we did nothing wrong. We have been vilified for purely political reasons. Those responsible can and should be held accountable.
The ruling exacerbates the legal peril Giuliani faces at a time when he and Trump are among 19 co-defendants charged this month in an racketeering case related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. It also creates the prospect of a huge financial penalty for Giuliani as the case moves to a federal trial in Washington to determine what damages he may be liable.
He will have a “last chance” to provide the requested information, known under the law as discovery, or face additional penalties if he fails to do so. Meanwhile, Howell said, Giuliani and his business entities must pay more than $130,000 in attorneys’ fees.
“Donning the mantle of victimization may play well on the public stage for some audiences, but in a court of law such performance has only served to undermine the normal process of discovery in a straight libel case, with the concomitant necessity of retrial interference,” Howell writes.
Aside from producing an initial 193-page document, the information Giuliani handed over consisted largely of “one page of communications, points of indecipherable data” and “a piece of financial documentation to be produced,” Howell said.
Giuliani blamed his failure to provide the required documents on the fact that his devices were seized by federal investigations in 2021 as part of a separate Justice Department investigation that did not result in any criminal charges.
Ted Goodman, Giuliani’s political adviser, said in a statement that the judge’s ruling “is a prime example of the weaponization of our justice system, where process is punishment. This decision should be reversed, as Mayor Giuliani is wrongly accused of failing to preserve and retain electronic evidence that was captured.” by the FBI.
Last month, Giuliani admitted he made public comments falsely claiming that election workers committed ballot fraud during the 2020 election, but maintained that the statements are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
This cautionary clause has “more holes than Swiss cheese,” Howell said, and noted that Giuliani was more interested in conceding the workers’ claims than in producing a meaningful finding in this case.
“However, just as taking shortcuts to winning an election carries risks – even potential criminal liability – bypassing the discovery process carries serious penalties, no matter what reservations a non-compliant party may artificially try to maintain to appeal.”
Moss has worked with the Fulton County Elections Department since 2012 and oversaw the absentee ballot operation during the 2020 election. Freeman was a temporary election worker, verifying signatures on absentee ballots and preparing them to be counted and processed.
Giuliani and others alleged during a December 2020 Georgia Legislative Subcommittee hearing that surveillance video from the State Farm Arena showed election workers committing election fraud.
Both women said that as these allegations spread online, they experienced intense harassment, both in person and online. Moss detailed her experiences in her emotional testimony to members of Congress investigating the Capitol insurrection. The Jan. 6 commission also played video testimony from Freeman during the June 2022 hearing.