Rudy Giuliani is being sued by two Georgia election workers for defamation, seeking “tens of millions of dollars” in damages. Giuliani’s attorney has threatened that the punishment would be “civil equivalent of the death penalty.”
On Monday, at the commencement of a jury trial to ascertain the appropriate compensation for the harms endured by Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss, their attorneys, who were inundated with threats and attacks for years following false accusations of ballot manipulation in 2020 by Giuliani and Donald Trump, disclosed the preliminary damages demand for the first time.
“Consider a verdict that will send a message,” Michael Gottlieb, one of the poll workers’ attorneys, said. “In the United States of America, Rudy Giuliani’s behavior is not an unavoidable result of politics.” It is not acceptable nor allowed.”
According to one of their lawyers, Freeman intends to testify and recount the emotional suffering caused by Giuliani’s attacks, including nightmares of her and her family being slain. And Moss plans to detail walking out of a job interview at Chick-fil-A after leaving an eight-year employment as an election worker when the manager approached her with news clippings describing Giuliani’s phony charges.
Jurors also heard disturbing audio of racist and violent phone exchanges and viewed the text of emails, some of which repeated the false claims made by Giuliani and Trump against Freeman and Moss as Trump sought to avoid defeat in the 2020 election. Many of the communications featured racist obscenities, including the N-word, which was repeatedly played in court and recited aloud by Von DuBose, another of the pair’s attorneys.
The trial’s presiding judge, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, has already determined that Giuliani defamed Freeman and Moss and caused them mental distress. That order was made by Howell in August as a consequence for her determination that the former New York mayor and federal prosecutor withheld evidence from them on purpose, including evidence concerning his financial worth.
The jury’s only job is to decide on Giuliani’s punishment — a monetary amount that can be linked to the losses he caused, as well as additional “punitive” damages aimed to dissuade others from acting similarly in the future.
In a speech to Georgia lawmakers in December 2020, Giuliani falsely claimed that video footage showed Freeman and Moss tampering votes at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. The accusation spread like wildfire among Trump’s allies looking for evidence of election fraud to give Trump a reason to challenge the results — and it continued even after Georgia election officials refuted it. Trump fueled the assaults on Moss and Freeman by bringing them up during a phone chat with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2, 2021.
In preparation for an eye-popping financial award, Giuliani is begging with the jury to evaluate whether Freeman and Moss’ suffering could be directly linked to him.
Giuliani’s lawyer, Joseph Sibley, opened his brief opening statement by admitting that his client was “wrong” to accuse Freeman and Moss for fraud, though he quickly attributed that admission to the verdict Howell had previously issued.
“There’s really no question that these plaintiffs were harmed,” Sibley added, referring to them as “good people.” “They didn’t deserve what happened to them.”
Sibley, on the other hand, called the amount of damages the pair are claiming “truly incredible,” and he made it clear that the primary thrust of Giuliani’s defense will be to claim that the chaos and fear that descended on them in December of 2020 wasn’t solely the fault of Giuliani, Trump, or Trump campaign officials.
“What happened to them was the result of a large-scale controversy.” “It wasn’t just Mr. Giuliani,” Sibley stated in his six-minute introduction. “You’ll notice a lot of evidence of injury… However, there is little indication that Mr. Giuliani was the cause.”
If the jury awards Moss and Freeman the damages they seek, he claims, “it will be the end of Mr. Giuliani.”
The poll workers’ lawyers intend to hire a media analyst to try to link many of the threats and insults they got to specific language or media appearances by Giuliani and others on the Trump campaign.
Trump is not a defendant in the lawsuit, but he is expected to play a significant role in it. Moss and Freeman’s attorneys labeled his social media megaphone as the most powerful on the earth, noting that he utilized it to reinforce Giuliani’s accusations.
A photo of Trump and Giuliani leaning toward each other was shown on courtroom TV screens as a counsel for Freeman and Moss outlined what Howell has already concluded was a “civil conspiracy” to slander the duo and cause them emotional anguish.
“The plan succeeded because it had at its disposal the most powerful amplifier on earth,” stated Gottlieb. “The social media account of President Donald J. Trump.”
The attorneys for Moss and Freeman stated that assigning a monetary value to the women’s injuries is necessarily subjective, but they aim to bring expert testimony to quantify it. Their losses included Freeman being forced to leave her home due to safety concerns, rebrand her business, and go into hiding. Moss was forced to leave her position as an election worker and struggled to find alternative employment. Last year, both ladies testified before a House select committee on January 6 about similar challenges.
Gottlieb encouraged the jury to examine “how needless, how cruel” Giuliani’s portrayal of “civil servants as fraudsters and criminals without evidence, knowing that millions of people will believe and act upon those lies.”
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