Giuliani Loses by Default Judgment in Election Workers’ Defamation Lawsuit
WASHINGTON — Rudy Giuliani was found liable by a federal court in Washington, D.C., Wednesday for defaming two Georgia election workers he accused of falsifying ballots to make Donald Trump lose the 2020 presidential election.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell represented a default judgment after Giuliani declined to turn over electronic records sought by election workers Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, in their lawsuit.
The former New York City mayor and lawyer for Trump said he should have no obligation to turn over the records because Moss and Freeman sued only to harass him.
He claimed a First Amendment right of free speech for any of his accusations, which have been proven to be false. He also claimed the rights of an attorney to act in the best interests of his client, namely Trump.
Giuliani said federal investigators interfered with his ability to comply with a discovery order when they seized his cellphone in 2021.
Howell suggested Giuliani’s true motives might have been to limit his liability as he faces the potential for other civil and criminal liability for trying to overturn the 2020 election. He was indicted this month in Georgia on criminal charges that include allegations similar to the defamation lawsuit.
“Perhaps, he has made the calculation that his overall litigation risks are minimized by not complying with his discovery obligations in this case,” Howell wrote in her 57-page opinion. “Whatever the reason, obligations are case specific and withholding required discovery in this case has consequences.”
The judge ordered Giuliani to pay nearly $90,000 and his businesses to pay more than $43,000 to reimburse Moss and Freeman’s legal fees. The next step in the case is a civil trial to determine how much Giuliani must pay in damages.
Moss and Freeman said they endured death threats and harassment after Giuliani accused them by name of falsifying ballots to help Joe Biden win the election. He compared them to drug dealers.
The judgment Wednesday found Giuliani liable for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. For the trial to assess the damages he must pay, Giuliani will have further obligations to turn over evidence.
He admitted in a court filing last month that some of his statements against the mother and daughter were inaccurate but the judge said his qualified admissions “hold more holes than Swiss cheese.”
“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’s opinion said.