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Giuliani found liable for defaming Georgia election workers after 2020 vote | CBC News

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Rudy Giuliani was found liable on Wednesday by a federal judge for defaming a mother and daughter who served as Georgia election workers during the 2020 presidential contest.

Judge Beryl Howell issued the order as a sanction against Giuliani for failing to turn over electronic records sought by the two election workers, Wandrea (Shaye) Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, in the case.

The judge’s order means Giuliani will have to pay damages for spreading false vote-rigging claims against the pair while he was acting as former U.S. president Donald Trump’s lawyer. Giuliani previously admitted in a court filing that his statements were false and defamatory, but claimed he was protected in making them by the First Amendment.

“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 straight-forward defamation case, with the concomitant necessity of repeated court intervention,” Howell wrote.

WATCH | ‘It was horrible’: Freeman describes threats to her safety:

FBI advised former Georgia election worker to leave home for safety

Ruby Freeman, a former election worker for Fulton County, Ga, said the FBI warned her to leave her home until after the inauguration of Joe Biden due to threats she’d received.

Giuliani, 79, will face a civil trial in Washington federal court to determine how much he will have to pay. He has already been ordered to pay just over $130,000 US (about $175,000 Cdn) in sanctions related to failures to hand over documents to the court in the case.

Ted Goodman, a political adviser to Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, said in a statement that the judge’s ruling “is a prime example of the weaponization of our justice system.”

“This decision should be reversed, as mayor Giuliani is wrongly accused of not preserving electronic evidence that was seized and held by the FBI,” said Goodman.

Criminal charges for Georgia acts

Giuliani, a former hard-charging federal prosecutor who earned plaudits as New York City’s mayor in the aftermath of 9/11, was among 19 people indicted criminally on Aug. 14 by a Georgia prosecutor over attempts to overturn the victory of Democrat Joe Biden in that state.

Giuliani faces a 13-count indictment that includes:

  • Violation of the Georgia racketeering act.
  • Three counts of solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer.
  • Three counts of false statements and writings.
  • Conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer.
  • Two counts of conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree.
  • Two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writings.
  • Conspiracy to commit filing false documents.

Giuliani is also an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal indictment Trump faces concerning attempts to overturn the 2020 election result, based on statements and actions described in court documents.

Moss had worked for the Fulton County elections department since 2012 and supervised 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.

In press conferences and before the Georgia legislature, Giuliani repeatedly pushed debunked claims based on selective video from Atlanta’s State Farm Arena that Freeman and Moss pulled out suitcases of illegal ballots and committed other acts of fraud to try to alter the outcome of the race.

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, said shortly after those claims emerged that the full surveillance video from the venue indicated those ballot carriers were accounted for earlier in the day.

Alleged threats part of indictment

Freeman and Moss have both spoken about the toll the allegations of wrongdoing have taken on their lives, including death threats and unsolicited visits to their home.

Moss recounted in testimony before a congressional committee last year getting “a lot of threats. Wishing death upon me. Telling me that I’ll be in jail with my mother and saying things like, ‘Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.'”

A woman is presented with a item by a man in a suit and tie in a room with an American flag in the background.
Ruby Freeman stands and applauds in the back as U.S. President Joe Biden presents her daughter Shaye Moss with a Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honour, at the White House in Washington on Jan. 6. (Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)

Three of the defendants charged in the sprawling Georgia indictment involving the 2020 election — Illinois pastor Stephen Lee, music industry publicist Trevian Kutti and Harrison Floyd, a U.S. Marine active in a Trump campaign organization — are accused of various alleged attempts to pressure or threaten Freeman.

“I have lost my name and I have lost my reputation. I have lost my sense of security. All because a group of people starting with [Trump] and his ally, Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me and my daughter,” Freeman told the Jan. 6 congressional committee last year.

In addition, the same committee heard that Trump took aim at Moss and Freeman in a recorded call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger weeks after the election, calling the latter a “professional vote scammer” and “hustler.”

Raffensperger, per a recording of the same call obtained by the media, told Trump it was “unfortunate that Rudy Giuliani or his people, they sliced and diced that video and took it out of context.”

Trump, Giuliani and several other Georgia defendants in the criminal case are scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 6.

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