Rudy Giuliani liable for defaming Georgia election workers, judge rules

<span>Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Rudy Giuliani, an attorney and close ally of Donald Trump, is liable for defaming two Georgia poll workers following the 2020 election, a federal judge has ruled in a default judgment.

Giuliani failed to produce records during the discovery process while making “excuses” to shroud his noncompliance, according to the opinion by Judge Beryl Howell, of the federal US district court for the District of Columbia.

“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 in a straightforward defamation case,” Howell wrote.

Ruby Freeman, an election worker in Fulton county, Georgia during the 2020 election, sued Giuliani for defaming her and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, by repeatedly spreading baseless claims they committed election fraud, including rolling around suitcases of fake ballots.

Related: Mitch McConnell appears to freeze again for more than 30 seconds

As a result of those baseless claims, Freeman and Moss, who are Black, became targets of harassment in the weeks after the election. Moss testified that she received threats and racist messages from strangers and as a result had to go into hiding and change her appearance. The ruling, along with the Fox-Dominion settlement, marks the second time Giuliani, one of the most prolific spreaders of misinformation in the 2020 election, has been held liable.

Giuliani admitted to making false statements but argued they were protected by the first amendment, in an earlier court filing.

A Georgia state election board formally cleared Freeman and Moss of wrongdoing in a 10-page report released in March.

That report confirmed that the election tampering allegations against Freeman and Moss were “unsubstantiated and found to have no merit”.

According to the Wednesday ruling, Giuliani is also liable for “intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and punitive damage claims”.

Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, is facing 13 felony charges in the Georgia election interference case. He was booked in a Fulton county jail last week and was released after posting $150,000 bail.

Yet Giuliani, 79, has struggled to pay his mounting legal fees, according to the New York Times, which reports that his bills add up to $3m. He put his Manhattan apartment up for sale for $6.5m in July, and has asked Trump to help cover some of the cost.

Trump is set to host a fundraiser for Giuliani at his New Jersey golf club this September, and it will cost each guest $100,000 to attend.

The defamation case will now go to trial to determine the amount of damages. While it is unclear how much Giuliani will be required to pay, Howell ruled that he owes $89,172.50, with interest, in attorney fees for Freeman and Moss on their successful motion to compel discovery.

Ted Goodman, a political advisor to Rudy Giuliani, has released a statement in response to today’s federal court ruling that the former attorney for Trump is liable for defaming two Georgia election workers. It repeats what most of the Trump allies have said in response to 2020 election cases.

“This is a prime example of the weaponization of the 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,” Goodman said.