A federal judge has determined Rudy Giuliani forfeits the defamation lawsuit from two Georgia election workers against him, a decision that could lead to significant penalties for the former Donald Trump attorney.
Giuliani lost the case because he struggled to maintain access to his electronic records, partly because of the cost, and couldn’t adequately respond to subpoenas from attorneys for Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss as the case moved forward.
The mother and daughter are asking for unspecified damages after they say they suffered emotional and reputational harm, as well as having their safety put in danger, after Giuliani singled them out when he made false claims of ballot tampering in Georgia after the 2020 election.
A trial to determine the amount of damages for which Giuliani will be held liable will be set for later this year or early 2024, Judge Beryl Howell of the DC District Court said on Wednesday.
The damages could amount to thousands if not millions of dollars.
Giuliani has already been sanctioned almost $90,000 for Freeman and Moss’ attorneys’ fees in the case, and Howell says the former New York mayor may be saddled with additional similar sanctions.
Giuliani has been struggling financially, buried under 2020 election legal proceedings, a new criminal case against him in Georgia related to efforts to overturn the election and other matters. He has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges in Georgia and has been released from jail on bond.
Late last month, Giuliani conceded that he made defamatory statements about Freeman and Moss and that he didn’t contest their accusations that he had smeared them after the 2020 election.
Giuliani’s statements about them, which Freeman and Moss say are false, included calling them ballot-stuffing criminal conspirators. Giuliani also drew attention to a video of them after the election, which was first posted by the Trump campaign and showed part of a security tape of ballot counting in Atlanta. On social media, his podcast and other broadcasts, Giuliani said the video showed suitcases filled with ballots, when it did not capture anything but normal ballot processing, according to the defamation lawsuit and a state investigation.
Georgia election officials have debunked Giuliani’s accusations of fraud during the ballot counting.
The mother-daughter duo has been candid about how their lives were impacted by Trump and Giuliani’s claims that they were guilty of election fraud.
“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?” Freeman said last year in video testimony to the House select committee that investigated the events surrounding the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.
Moss said her privacy was destroyed when she learned that Giuliani had accused her mother, Freeman, of passing some kind of USB drive to her like “vials of cocaine or heroin” as part of an elaborate vote-stealing scheme, she said. In reality, the object in question was a ginger mint. In his controversial call when he asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find votes to help him overturn his 2020 loss, Trump attacked Moss 18 times, and the former president called Freeman a “professional vote scammer” and a “hustler.”
“I felt horrible. I felt like it was all my fault,” Moss said during her testimony last year. “I just felt like it was, it was my fault for putting my family in this situation.”
She added that she and her mother were afraid to go outside or to the supermarket after getting threats “wishing death upon me, telling me that, you know, I’ll be in jail with my mother and saying things like – ‘Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.’”
During Giuliani’s disinformation campaign about the vote in Georgia, the FBI recommended Freeman leave her home for her own safety, according to the lawsuit.
This story has been updated with additional reporting and details.