Giuliani must pay more than $148 million for defaming Fulton election workers

WASHINGTON – A federal jury ruled Friday that Rudy Giuliani must pay two former Fulton County election workers more than $148 million in damages for falsely accusing them of voting fraud, allegations they said upended their lives and spurred death threats and racial harassment.

The jury said the former New York City mayor owes Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, $33.2 million in compensatory damages for defamation, plus $40 million for intentionally inflicting emotional distress on them. The jury also awarded them $75 million in punitive damages.

“Today’s a good day,” Freeman said outside the courthouse after the decision was announced.

“A jury stood witness to what Rudy Giuliani did to me and my daughter, and held him accountable.”

“We hope no one ever has to fight so hard just to get your name back,” Moss added.

An unrepentant Giuliani pledged to appeal.

Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, speak outside of the  E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. District Courthouse on Friday, Dec. 15, 2023, in Washington, D.C. A jury has ordered Rudy Giuliani, the former personal lawyer for former President Donald Trump, to pay $148 million in damages to the pair. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

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“The absurdity of the number merely underscores the absurdity of the entire proceeding,” he said.

“I am quite confident when this case gets before a fair tribunal, it’ll be reversed so quickly it will make your head spin.”

The verdict is a victory for two women who became targets after Giuliani, former President Donald Trump and others falsely accused them of ballot stuffing and other illegal acts on election night 2020. Giuliani and Trump continued to spread the lies long after they had been debunked by state and federal investigator.

It was also another blow for Giuliani, who faces a growing thicket of legal trouble – including criminal charges in Georgia – stemming from his efforts to aid Trump. Giuliani has also been struggling financially, which raises questions about whether Freeman and Moss will ever collect on the huge award.

At this week’s trial, Freeman and Moss wept as they testified about the emotional toll of threats that continue to this day. Moss said she has panic attacks, refuses to go out alone and has nightmares about being lynched.

When asked what she most fears, Moss sobbed and responded, “my son finding me and/or my mom hanging in front of our house on a tree or having to get news at school that his momma was killed.”

The plaintiffs sought at least $48 million in compensatory damages, citing expert testimony about the damage the allegations had done to their reputations. They also sought unspecified damages for emotional distress and punitive damages to deter Giuliani from repeating the false allegations.

Giuliani’s attorney, Joseph Sibley, argued this week that there was no doubt the women were harmed. But he said Giuliani was not responsible for the racist harassment and death threats.

Rudy Giuliani, the former personal lawyer for former President Donald Trump, speaks with reporters outside of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. District Courthouse after a verdict was reached in his defamation jury trial on Friday, Dec. 15, 2023, in Washington, D.C. A jury has ordered Giuliani to pay $148 million in damages to Fulton County election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/TNS)

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Sibley said Giuliani owed the women something for falsely accusing them of voting fraud. But he argued the plaintiff’s damage request was far too high.

But Giuliani likely did himself no favors this week by telling reporters he planned to testify that the false allegations were true.

Giuliani ultimately decided not to testify. But Michael Gottlieb, the plaintiffs’ attorney, cited his comments as evidence that Giuliani continues to defame Freeman and Moss.

After today’s verdict, Giuliani continued to claim his allegations were true - even though he stipulated in court documents that they were false.

The jury of five women and three men deliberated more than ten hours over Thursday and Friday before announcing their verdict. They awarded Moss $16,998,000 in compensatory damages and Freeman $16,171,000. That was less than the $24 million each the plaintiffs had requested, but the other damages jurors awarded were eye-popping.

Friday’s verdict is the latest effort to hold people and institutions accountable for spreading false voting fraud allegations about the 2020 election.

Last spring Fox News agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems a whopping $787.5 million for spreading false claims that the company’s machines switched votes from Trump to Biden. Documents uncovered during that lawsuit showed Fox executives and personalities knew the allegations were false even as they continued to air them.

Dominion has filed similar lawsuits against Giuliani and attorney Sidney Powell, who also faces criminal charges in Georgia. And the company has sued Newsmax and One America News.

Freeman and Moss have already received a settlement from One America News. They also have a pending defamation lawsuit against the Gateway Pundit, which spread false allegations of fraud against the election workers.

“Rudy Giuliani was not the only one who spread lies about us, and others must be held accountable, too,” Freeman said. “But that is tomorrow’s work.”

She said the award was gratifying but allowed it would never correct the damage that had been done.

“I can never move back into the house that I called home. I will always have to be careful about where I go and who I choose to share my name with,” Freeman said. “I miss my home. I miss my neighbors. And I miss my name.”