Giuliani Spread Lies About Georgia Election Workers; Jury to Decide Compensation

Charles Krupa/AP 

   As Rudy Giuliani appears in federal court on Monday, the primary question revolves around the severity of sanctions he will face for spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election.

Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court has previously held Giuliani liable for defamation against two Georgia election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. These individuals experienced threats and harassment after Giuliani and Donald Trump falsely accused them of manipulating ballots in the aftermath of the 2020 election. The baseless claims contributed to persistent conspiracy theories.

In the upcoming trial in Washington, D.C., a jury will be tasked with determining the amount of damages Rudy Giuliani must pay for charges including defamation, infliction of emotional distress, and other punitive costs. The plaintiffs, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, have not specified a precise amount but plan to present expert testimony to estimate the harm they have suffered.

This damages trial represents another avenue of accountability for those involved in supporting Trump's attempts to undermine the 2020 election. While criminal proceedings against Trump, Giuliani, and others have been slow, efforts to hold them accountable through civil lawsuits and disbarment proceedings have progressed more swiftly. Giuliani's law license was suspended last year, and a decision on whether to make that suspension permanent is pending.

Freeman and Moss are pivotal figures in two criminal cases against Trump, including a federal conspiracy case in Washington, D.C., and a racketeering case in Georgia. Prosecutors in both cases have detailed how Trump propagated Giuliani's false claims about the women, including during a notable phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2, 2021.

In the ongoing federal case, Rudy Giuliani is referred to as "co-conspirator 1," unfolding in the same courthouse where he is awaiting sentencing in the civil trial involving defamation of election workers. Giuliani, along with several other Trump allies, is implicated in criminal charges, accused of attempting to harass and intimidate workers, alongside Trump, in the Georgia case.

Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, key witnesses in the House Jan. 6 select committee hearing last year, have recounted enduring a barrage of death threats and attacks over the past three years, prompting them to relocate for their safety. Trump has persisted in targeting Freeman, a fact highlighted by federal prosecutors in a December 4 court filing, indicating their intention to introduce evidence of Trump's recent conduct in his upcoming criminal trial scheduled for March 4.

Judge Beryl Howell, appointed by President Obama, is set to preside over Giuliani's trial this week, offering a front-row view of legal proceedings arising from Trump's attempts to disrupt the transfer of power. Until March, Howell served as the district's chief judge and handled grand jury matters related to Trump's federal criminal case. She played a key role in denying Trump's efforts to assert executive privilege and prevent testimony from key aides. Howell also authorized special counsel Jack Smith to access data from Trump's Twitter feed, emphasizing that Trump's rhetoric posed a danger to participants and witnesses in the case.

The case against Giuliani is expected to rely on evidence from close associates who provided depositions, including former NYPD chief Bernie Kerik. Giuliani himself may be called as a live witness. Freeman and Moss intend to call an expert to quantify the impact of Giuliani's statements and the harm they allege he caused.

Howell ruled that Giuliani was liable for defamation, citing his repeated failure to preserve and turn over evidence. She issued pointed rulings accusing Giuliani of defying her orders and, at times, demanded his presence in the courtroom, a rarity in civil proceedings. Recently, Howell criticized Giuliani's attorney, Joe Sibley, for failing to inform Giuliani of the judge's expectation for his attendance at the final pretrial conference. Giuliani, in response, has made aggressive statements against Judge Howell.

Giuliani's political adviser and spokesman, Ted Goodman, issued a statement last week asserting, "The judges’ biases and prejudices are well known and have been demonstrated throughout this case and many others — where the process is the punishment." He went on to express the belief that, over time, this period will be regarded as a dark chapter in America's justice system, causing irreparable harm.

Apart from the criminal charges and disbarment proceedings, Giuliani faces lawsuits from various individuals, including Hunter Biden, who allege he spread false allegations about them in 2020. Despite citing financial strain to cover legal bills, Giuliani has promoted high-dollar fundraisers for his defense. Trump's PAC also assisted in covering a $300,000 bill related to Giuliani's evidence assembly in the Freeman-Moss lawsuit.

Judge Howell plans to seat an eight-member jury, and Freeman and Moss's lawyers anticipate a three-day presentation of their case.