A Washington, DC, jury has ordered Rudy Giuliani to pay nearly $150 million to two Georgia election workers for the harm caused by defamatory statements he made about them following the 2020 election.
Ruby Freeman was awarded $16,171,000 for defamation and $20 million for emotional distress. Shaye Moss, Freeman’s daughter, was awarded $16,998,000 for defamation and $20 million for emotional distress. The jury also awarded $75 million in punitive damages to both plaintiffs.
Giuliani watched intently as the verdict was read, using a stylus on a touch-screen device, apparently taking down notes on the figures he’d been ordered to pay. After leaving the courtroom, the former New York mayor and onetime attorney to former President Donald Trump vowed to appeal.
After the proceedings ended, Freeman and Moss hugged each other tightly and then every member of their legal team. There was a feeling of jubilation among the plaintiffs in the courtroom after Giuliani left, and Freeman looked especially relieved after the jury forewoman read the numbers, spinning around slightly in her chair and closing her eyes briefly.
“Today is a good day. A jury stood witness to what Rudy Giuliani did to me and my daughter and held him accountable, and for that I’m thankful. Today is not the end of the road. We still have work to do,” Freeman said outside the courthouse Friday.
Moss told reporters, “I spent 10 years as an election worker in Fulton County, Georgia. The lies Rudy Giuliani told about me and my mommy after the 2020 presidential election have changed our lives and the past few years has been devastating.”
“The flame that Giuliani lit with those lies and passed to so many others to keep that flame blazing changed every aspect of our lives, our homes, our family, our work, our sense of safety, our mental health, and we’re still working to rebuild,” Moss said. “As we move forward and continue to seek justice, our greatest wish is that no one, no election worker or voter or school board member or anyone else ever experiences anything like what we went through. You all matter and you are all important. We hope no one ever has to fight so hard just to get your name back.”
Giuliani was found liable this summer for defamation against Freeman and Moss after failing to respond to parts of their lawsuit. The mother and daughter claimed in their case that they have 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.
During the trial, an attorney for Freeman and Moss showed videos and played audio clips in which Giuliani repeated false claims that the two election workers stuffed ballots and were caught on video allegedly passing a USB drive as part of a vote-stealing scheme.
None of those claims were true, and the supposed USB drive was a ginger mint.
In emotional testimony delivered over the course of two days, Freeman and Moss described the flood of harassing and threatening messages they received after Giuliani and others, including Trump, began attacking them. They told the jury how their personal and professional lives were upended by the lies, including through the loss of job opportunities, their communities, and, they said, their personal identities.
“It feels like I’m trapped under someone else’s boot of power,” Moss testified Tuesday. “I can’t do anything, I feel helpless, and the only thing that’s surrounding me is the lies.”
Testifying a day later, Freeman appeared visibly shaken as various threatening messages were shown to the jury and attempted to hold back tears as she read aloud some of them.
“Pack your sh*t. They are coming for you. I’m not far behind. I’m coming for you also. Trash will be taken to the street in bags,” one of the messages read.
“I took it as though they were going to cut me up and put me into trash bags and take it out to my street,” Freeman testified.
Giuliani did not testify.
Giuliani attorney Joseph Sibley invoked Giuliani’s legacy as a federal prosecutor in New York and his time as mayor of the city in an attempt to paint his client as a good man who shouldn’t be subjected to the judgment sought by Freeman and Moss.
Giuliani told reporters outside the courthouse: “Certainly we’ll appeal. The absurdity of the number merely underscores the absurdity of the entire proceeding.”
“I am quite confident when this case gets before a fair tribunal, it will be reversed so quickly it will make your head spin,” he added.
Asked by reporters why he thought the trial unfair, Giuliani responded, “I cannot go into the details.”
He added that he didn’t testify on his own behalf “because the judge made it clear that if I made any mistake or did anything wrong, she was considering contempt and this judge does have a reputation for putting people in jail. And I thought, honestly, it wouldn’t do any good.”
During the trial, Giuliani repeatedly highlighted how he doesn’t have funds to pay his various debts or to respond to the case, with Sibley claiming Freeman and Moss are asking for “the civil equivalent of the death penalty.”
“They’re trying to end Mr. Giuliani,” Sibley said.
Because Giuliani hasn’t responded to many subpoenas in the lawsuit, attorneys for Freeman and Moss said in court they couldn’t find a number.
He’s already been fined more than $200,000 for some of Freeman and Moss’ attorneys’ fees, which he hasn’t paid.
Giuliani also owed more than $1 million to defense attorneys who’ve helped him on other matters, prompting them to sue him this year, and hadn’t paid nearly $60,000 for years-old phone bills. Yet at times he’s had help – including from Trump – to try to fundraise to offset some of his debts, and he was able to take a private plane to his arrest on criminal charges related to 2020 election interference in Georgia this summer.
A spokesman for Giuliani declined to comment on Friday on his current financial state.
A few months ago, Giuliani listed his 3-bedroom Manhattan apartment for sale. It’s still on the market, for $6.1 million, according to public real estate listings.
It’s also not clear whether Giuliani would be able to declare bankruptcy to shield himself from any sum of damages in this lawsuit. That issue, according to people familiar with the case, may have to be decided by the courts at a later time, and it’s possible he could still be on the hook for the award to Freeman and Moss, even if he goes into bankruptcy.
In a different high-profile defamation case against far-right personality Alex Jones brought by the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims, the courts have had to look at this type of issue. That same issue could arise with Giuliani’s case, the sources said.
Jones filed for bankruptcy after he was ordered to pay $1.5 billion to the shooting victims’ families, but a judge decided this fall he couldn’t use bankruptcy to avoid owing the money.
This story has been updated with additional details.