Rudy Giuliani faces “financially ruinous” damages after losing defamation suit from election workers


The judge presiding over the defamation lawsuit Georgia election workers brought against Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday granted a default judgment against the former Trump lawyer and New York City mayor in addition to punitive sanctions, a Wednesday court filing shows. 

Giuliani last month conceded that he does not contest that his claims about Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea’ ArShaye (“Shaye”) Moss, who were forced from their homes by violent threats, were “false” and “carry meaning that is defamatory” even as he insisted that he was still contesting their lawsuit. After asking Giuliani to clarify, Judge Beryl Howell on Wednesday issued a default judgment against him “as a discovery sanction” and also ordered him “to reimburse plaintiffs for attorneys’ fees and costs.”

After losing the defamation lawsuit, Giuliani is liable for the “plaintiffs’ defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and punitive damage claims,” which will be determined at a future hearing.

Giuliani could be on the hook for “thousands, if not millions, of dollars,” CNN reported.

“Rudy Giuliani’s financial position, among other things, gets worse,” former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance tweeted as Giuliani faces mounting legal bills while former President Donald Trump reportedly refuses to pay him for his post-election work.

In order to facilitate trial preparations, Howell ordered Giuliani to foot the bill by Sept. 20 for Moss and Freeman’s attorneys’ fees and costs associated with their first motion to compel discovery, which amounts to $89,172.50 with interest that has accrued since July 25 — the reimbursement’s original due date. Giuliani was also ordered to ensure that his businesses reimburse the mother-daughter duo’s attorneys’ fees of $43,684 with interest accruing from Sept. 20 against him if his businesses fail to comply.

“Yet just as taking shortcuts to win an election carries risks—even potential criminal liability—bypassing the discovery process caries serious sanctions no matter what reservations a noncompliant party may try artificially to preserve for appeal,” Howell wrote in the ruling.

Howell wrote that Giuliani paid only “lip service to compliance with his discovery obligations and this Court’s orders by failing to take reasonable steps to preserve or produce” electronic communications and data requested by the election workers. Instead, Giuliani “submitted declarations with concessions turned slippery on scrutiny and excuses designed to shroud the insufficiency of his discovery compliance,” she wrote. 

Giuliani only turned over 193 documents, a single page of communications, “blobs of indecipherable data,” and only a “sliver of the financial documents required to be produced,” the order said. 

The suit will still go to trial to determine the exact amount of fees the poll workers will be awarded with Howell ordering the parties to propose a schedule for future proceedings in the dispute in the period from November to February 2024. In determining those damages, the judge writes, the jury will be instructed to “infer that [Giuliani] is intentionally trying to hide relevant discovery about his financial assets for the purpose of artificially deflating his net worth” unless he adequately responds to the plaintiffs’ requests for production that he was ordered to produce by June 30.

“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,” the judge said in the ruling.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann questioned “what discovery” Giuliani might be “hiding.”

“I suspect it is pretty bad- ie criminally damning- for him to risk this result which is financially ruinous and predicated on his discovery violations,” he tweeted.

Moss and Freeman lamented the “living nightmare” and the “wave of hatred and threats” Giuliani “helped unleash” in a statement praising Howell’s ruling Wednesday.

“What we went through after the 2020 election was a living nightmare. Rudy Giuliani helped unleash a wave of hatred and threats we never could have imagined. It cost us our sense of security and our freedom to go about our lives,” Freeman and Moss wrote. “Nothing can restore all we lost, but today’s ruling is yet another neutral finding that has confirmed what we have known all along: that there was never any truth to any of the accusations about us and that we did nothing wrong.”

They went on to recall the harassment they experienced as a result of the claims leveled against them following the 2020 election, asserting that they have “kept the faith” and are still working to make sure the people responsible are held accountable.

“That is why we did not lie down and go away in 2020, 2021, 2022, or 2023, but instead stood up and are still working to see justice done,” they concluded. “The fight to rebuild our reputations and to repair the damage to our lives is not over. But today we’re one step closer and for that we are grateful.”

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As part of their peddling of unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, Giuliani, Trump and their associates repeatedly alleged Moss and Freeman committed election crimes, citing a surveillance video that was heavily circulated across right-wing media that claimed to show the election workers moving suitcases filled with illegal ballots. Giuliani later accused the duo of handing out USB drives at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, which is where votes were being counted.

For his part, Giuliani responded to Wednesday’s ruling in a statement through his political advisor Ted Goodman, who, while noting the length of such a document is usually two-to-three pages, called the judge’s 57-page opinion a “prime example of the weaponization of the justice system, where the process is 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 concluded. 

Freeman and Moss originally filed the lawsuit against Giuliani and other defendants on Dec. 23, 2021, accusing them of defamation, civil conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The pair amended the suit in May 2022 to accuse Giuliani alone, seeking monetary damages. They filed motions seeking discovery sanctions against the lawyer last month, alleging that he ignored court orders mandating him to share his correspondence with Trump ally Boris Epshteyn — who Giuliani was determined to have advised to tell Trump about the security footage.

Giuliani is also facing other lawsuits, including another defamation suit from international voting technology company Smartmatic in relation to his claims about election fraud, and a suit accusing him of sexual assault and wage theft brought by his former assistant, Noelle Dunphy. He also faces 13 charges in a sprawling racketeering indictment brought by the Fulton County, Ga. district attorney alleging he, Trump and 17 other defendants organized a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.

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