Rudy Giuliani owes defamed election workers nearly $150 million, jury rules

Rudy Giuliani must pay $148m to a pair of former election workers who endured an avalanche of threatening and racist abuse after they were smeared by Donald Trump’s former attorney.

Following a four-day trial in a federal courtroom in Washington DC, on Friday (15 December), an eight-member jury found Mr Giuliani owes Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss $16.2m and $16.99m respectively in compensatory damages, an additional $20m each for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a further $75m in punitive damages.

The judge overseeing the case found Mr Giuliani liable for defamation claims in a pretrial ruling in August. This week’s trial set out to determine just how much he owed.

Ms Moss, who was a clerical worker in a county election office, and Ms Freeman, her mother, who had taken a temporary job to help count ballots, were subject to relentless abuse, threats and racist attacks in the volatile aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.

During their emotional testimony on the witness stand this week, the women detailed their pain, nightmares and overwhelming anxiety after Mr Giuliani falsely claimed they wheeled a suitcase loaded with fraudulent ballots into a vote-counting centre and used a flash drive to manipulate the results to ensure Joe Biden’s victory.

“It feels like I’m in a dark place and I’m surrounded by lies and conspiracies, like I’m surrounded by a swamp of loneliness and sadness and negativity,” Ms Freeman told the court on Tuesday. “I still feel like I’m in that cycle of eat, sleep, cry, look online.”

Outside US District Court on Friday, Ms Moss told reporters that the family’s “greatest wish is that no one – no election worker or voter or school board member or anyone else – ever experiences anything like we went through.”

“We hope no one ever has to fight so hard just to get their name back,” she said.

Ms Freeman, who was forced to leave her home after a deluge of threats, told reporters after the verdict that the damages awarded to her “will never solve all of my problems”.

“I always have to be careful about where I go and who I choose to share my name with,” she said. “I miss my home, I miss my neighbours, and I miss my name.”

Attorneys for Ms Freeman and Ms Moss initially sought $24m each for reputational damages and asked a jury to consider sending a powerful message by adding severe penalties for their emotional distress and punitive damages.

The verdict delivers a massive legal and financial blow to a prominent amplifier of conspiracy theory-driven claims surrounding election fraud, three years later, as those lies continue to fester across US politics.

Mr Giuliani faces a mountain of other legal battles, including a criminal case in Atlanta that also involves the same lies about the women he now owes tens of millions of dollars over.

Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman testified to a House select committee investigating January 6 in 2022 (AP)
Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman testified to a House select committee investigating January 6 in 2022 (AP)

“I don’t regret a damn thing,” Mr Giuliani told reporters as he left US District Court on Friday.

“The absurdity of the number underscores the absurdity of the entire proceedings,” he said. “I am quite confident when this case gets before a fair tribunal, it’ll be reversed so quickly, it’ll make your head spin.”

Outside the courthouse on Monday, Mr Giuliani repeated the false claims at the centre of the case.

“Everything I said about them is true,” he told reporters. “Of course I don’t regret it. … I told the truth. They were engaged in changing votes.”

One day later, hours before he was expected to testify in his defence, he told reporters “the truth will come out”.

He never testified. His defence attorney Joseph Sibley said he did not take the stand because the women “have been through enough.”

In his closing arguments on Thursday, Mr Sibley did not dispute that his client’s lies have harmed Ms Freeman and Ms Moss, but Mr Giuliani was not the “patient zero” for those statements, he said. Far-right website Gateway Pundit, a prolific source for election conspiracy theories, had identified the women by name after Mr Giuliani and the Trump campaign spread deceptively edited videos of the women working on election night. The website also faces a defamation suit.

In closing arguments, attorney Michael Gottlieb said Mr Giuliani “has no right to offer up defenceless civil servants up to a virtual mob in order to overturn an election.”

Rudy Giuliani arrives at US District Court in Washington DC on 15 December, the day an eight-member jury ruled he must pay a pair of election workers nearly $150m for his lies about them (EPA)
Rudy Giuliani arrives at US District Court in Washington DC on 15 December, the day an eight-member jury ruled he must pay a pair of election workers nearly $150m for his lies about them (EPA)

“Rudy Giuliani could have stopped all of this,” Mr Gottleib said.

Mr Giuliani’s statements to Georgia lawmakers and on television and podcast appearances in the election’s volatile aftermath suggested the women were criminals whose homes and workplaces should be searched.

His baseless claims – amplified across social media and right-wing media networks and echoed by then-President Trump – are at the centre of persistent conspiracy theories fuelling a bogus narrative that the election was stolen from Mr Trump.

Those threats and a pressure campaign against Ms Freeman and Ms Moss are also evidence in a sprawling criminal case in Georgia, where Mr Giuliani is a defendant alongside the former president, accused of joining a criminal enterprise to unlawfully overturn the state’s election results. Mr Trump is also charged with conspiring to subvert the election’s outcome in a parallel federal indictment. Mr Giuliani is among the unindicted co-conspirators in that case.

During a hearing among Georgia lawmakers in December 2020, Mr Giuliani accused the women of “surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine” to “infiltrate” voting machines. He accused them of “illegal activity” and suggested police search their homes “for evidence”.

On his infamous phone call to Georgia’s chief elections official to “find” votes to win the state, Mr Trump mentioned Ms Freeman’s name 18 times. He called her a “a professional vote scammer” and falsely claimed that the women pulled out “what looked to be suitcases or trunks” that were “stuffed with votes” with a “minimum” of “18,000 ballots, all for Biden.”

Bogus claims spread widely across social media and among far-right media networks, funneling threats and abuse to Ms Freeman and Ms Moss.

Georgia’s State Election Board cleared the allegations against the women and dismissed bogus claims of election fraud in the state.

Additional reporting by Oliver O’Connell