Jury to decide how much Rudy Giuliani must pay election workers he defamed

WASHINGTON — Opening statements began Monday in a trial to determine how much Rudy Giuliani will have to pay two former Georgia election workers after he was found liable for defaming them with baseless claims that they committed fraud in the 2020 election.

Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, sued Giuliani over the bogus claims, which they say upended their lives. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and former federal prosecutor, was found to have defamed the two women, including by falsely claiming they were handing around what he alleged were USB drives “like they were vials of heroin or cocaine,” when in reality they were exchanging a ginger mint.

Freeman and Moss received an “overwhelming” amount of “vile, racist, hateful comments” that were “fueled” by Giuliani and his co-conspirators, one of their attorneys, Michael Gottlieb, told jurors.

For a staggering number of Americans, their names have become synonymous with crime and fraud, Gottlieb said.

Giuliani attorney Joseph Sibley told jurors there’s no question that Freeman and Moss were harmed and that they’re “good people,” but he added that the “punishment must match the crime.” He said Giuliani never promoted racism or violence and that the millions of dollars Freeman and Moss are seeking would be the “civil equivalent of the death penalty.”

“It would be the end of Mr. Giuliani,” Sibley added.

But in comments outside the courthouse Monday, Giuliani told reporters he did not regret his lies, and he claimed that he “told the truth” about Freeman and Moss.

“When I testify, you’ll get the whole story, and it will be definitively clear what I said was true,” he said.

The judge found Giuliani liable this year after he repeatedly snubbed court orders to turn over evidence in the case to the pair.

“Just as taking shortcuts to win an election carries risks — even potential criminal liability — bypassing the discovery process carries serious sanctions,” U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled in August.

Giuliani arrived in the courtroom about 20 minutes after jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday. His attorney blamed the delay on the security line to get in the courthouse. Potential jurors were being asked questions such as whether they believe Joe Biden’s election was illegitimate and whether they’ve ever used a slogan associated with QAnon conspiracy theorists. Eight jurors were selected shortly after noon, and openings started shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET.

Freeman and Moss are expected to testify. Their lawyers have said they will discuss the “threats, harassment, and harm” they experienced as a result of the false claims. The mother and daughter “will explain as best they can what it’s like to have their lives hijacked in an instant, through no fault of their own,” another of their attorneys, Von DuBose, told the jury.

The pair is seeking “a sum ranging from $15.5 million to $43 million, inclusive of special damages,” their lawyers wrote in a court filing. Freeman and Moss will “ask the jury to award compensatory damages for the severe emotional distress caused by Defendant Giuliani and his co-conspirators between 2020 through the present in an amount to be determined by the jury, including based on Plaintiffs’ mental pain and suffering, fear, inconvenience, nervousness, indignity, insult, humiliation, or embarrassment that Plaintiffs suffered directly because of Defendant Giuliani and his co-conspirators’ conduct,” they wrote.

Freeman and Moss will also ask the jury “to award punitive damages against Defendant Giuliani as a punishment for his outrageous conduct and to deter him and others from engaging in that kind of conduct, in an amount to be determined by the jury, including based on the relevant legal factors and adverse inferences entered in this case,” their attorneys said.

“The only issue remaining in this trial will be for a jury to determine how much Defendant Giuliani owes to Plaintiffs for the damage his conduct caused,” they wrote.

Giuliani will testify at trial, as well, Sibley told jurors.

The proceedings got off to a rough start last week after Giuliani missed a pretrial hearing he was supposed to attend.

During the hearing, Howell asked Sibley where his client was. Sibley replied that Giuliani was in New York, prompting the judge to remind him that her standing order instructed all counsel and parties to be present for the hearing.

“How could you have missed that? Or did you miss it?” Howell asked Sibley, saying it “sets the tone, doesn’t it, for the whole case.”

Sibley told Howell he misread the order and blamed himself for Giuliani’s absence. Asked by Howell whether he was “falling on his sword” for Giuliani, Sibley denied the notion.

“I should have been aware,” Sibley said. “It’s my fault.”

Howell later instructed Sibley to submit in writing that Giuliani wouldn’t object to any decisions reached at the pretrial conference.

A day before Giuliani failed to show up to the hearing, Howell slammed what she called his “nonsense” claim in a recent court filing that damages should be determined by a judge, not a jury.

The judge pointed out that Giuliani has been on notice about the jury trial demand for almost two full years.

“Giuliani’s position that the long-standing jury demand in this case was extinguished when he was found liable on plaintiffs’ claims by default, is wrong as a matter of law,” Howell wrote. One of Giuliani’s claims — which she dismissed as an attempt “to shift blame onto plaintiffs for any prejudice resulting from a potential conversion from a jury to a bench trial” — is “simply nonsense,” she wrote.

She had found that Giuliani is “civilly liable on plaintiffs’ defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and punitive damage claims” because of his “willful discovery misconduct” and his purposeful “shirking of his discovery obligations.”

Giuliani conceded in a court filing in July that he had made “false” statements about Freeman and Moss.

“Defendant Giuliani, for the purposes of litigation only, does not contest that, to the extent the statements were statements of fact and other wise actionable, such actionable factual statements were false,” Giuliani wrote in a signed stipulation, which he said was intended to “avoid unnecessary expenses in litigating what he believes to be unnecessary disputes.”

In emotional testimony last year, Freeman and Moss told the House Jan. 6 committee that they have been relentlessly targeted and harassed after Giuliani, then-President Donald Trump and conspiracy theorists baselessly claimed that they committed fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Ted Goodman, a Giuliani spokesperson and political adviser, said the Giuliani “you see today is the same man who took down the Mafia, cleaned up New York City and comforted the nation following September 11th” and suggested he was being targeted for his political views instead of his actions.

“In the fullness of time, this will be looked at as a dark chapter in our nation’s history, as those in power attempt to destroy their partisan political opposition in ways that cause great, irreparable harm to the U.S. justice system,” he said.

The damages trial is just one of many legal, professional and financial woes Giuliani faces as a result of his championing Trump’s bogus stolen election claims.

Giuliani has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges alongside Trump and others in the Georgia case accusing them of trying to illegally overturn the results of the election in the state. The former mayor is also being sued by Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems for his election claims, as well as by Hunter Biden over alleged computer fraud and the release of his personal information. Giuliani also is being by a former assistant who accuses him of sexually assaulting her, allegations that an aide to the former mayor says he “unequivocally denies.”

With Giuliani’s bogus election claims having led to his law licenses’ being suspended in New York and Washington, D.C., as he fights disbarment, he appears unable to cover his mounting legal bills. His longtime lawyer has sued him and dropped him, and Giuliani has listed his New York City apartment for sale for $6.1 million.