COURTS & LEGAL

Judge holds Giuliani liable in Georgia election workers’ defamation case

Aug 30, 2023, 11:06 AM | Updated: 5:05 pm

Rudy Giuliani speaks outside the Fulton County jail, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, in Atlanta. Giuliani...

Rudy Giuliani speaks outside the Fulton County jail, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, in Atlanta. Giuliani has surrendered to authorities in Georgia to face an indictment alleging he acted as former President Donald Trump’s chief co-conspirator in a plot to subvert the 2020 election. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday held Rudy Giuliani liable in a defamation lawsuit brought by two Georgia election workers who say they were falsely accused of fraud, ruling that the former New York city mayor gave “only lip service” to complying with his legal obligations while trying to portray himself as the victim in the case.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said the punishment was necessary because Giuliani had ignored his duty as a defendant to turn over information requested by election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea’ ArShaye Moss, as part of their lawsuit.

The decision moves the case toward a trial in Washington that could result in Giuliani being ordered to pay significant damages to the women, in addition to the tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees he’s already being directed to pay.

The workers’ complaint from December 2021 accused Giuliani, one of Donald Trump’s lawyers and a confidant of the former Republican president, of defaming them by falsely stating that they had engaged in fraud while counting ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

In a statement Wednesday, the women said they had endured a “living nightmare” and an unimaginable “wave of hatred and threats” because of Giuliani’s comments.

“Nothing can restore all we lost, but today’s ruling is yet another neutral finding that has confirmed what we have known all along: that there was never any truth to any of the accusations about us and that we did nothing wrong. We were smeared for purely political reasons, and the people responsible can and should be held accountable,” they said.

Giuliani concedes he made public comments falsely claiming Georgia election workers committed fraud

The ruling compounds the legal jeopardy for Giuliani at a time when he and Trump are both among 19 defendants charged this month in a racketeering case related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. It also creates the potential for a massive financial penalty for Giuliani as the case proceeds to a federal trial in Washington, where a jury would determine damages he may be liable for.

He will have a “final opportunity” to produce the requested information, known under the law as discovery, but could face additional sanctions if he fails to do so. In the meantime, Howell said, Giuliani and his business entities must pay more than $130,000 in attorneys’ fees.

Howell expressed skepticism at Giuliani’s claims that he cannot afford to reimburse the plaintiffs in the case, noting that he recently listed his apartment in Manhattan for $6.5 million and was reported to have flown via private plane to Atlanta to surrender to charges there. He has pleaded not guilty.

“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 wrote.

Howell said that aside from an initial document production of 193 pages, the information Giuliani had turned over consisted largely of “a single page of communications, blobs of indecipherable data” and “a sliver of the financial documents required to be produced.”

“Perhaps, he has made the calculation that his overall litigation risks are minimized by not complying with his discovery obligations in this case,” Howell said. “Whatever the reason, obligations are case specific and withholding required discovery in this case has consequences.”

The judge said “Giuliani has given only lip service to compliance with his discovery obligations.”

Giuliani has blamed his failure to produce the requested documents on the fact that his devices were seized by federal investigations in 2021 as a part of a separate Justice Department investigation that did not produce any criminal charges.

Ted Goodman, a political adviser to Giuliani, said in a statement that the judge’s ruling “is a prime example of the weaponization of our justice system, where the process is the punishment. This decision should be reversed, as Mayor Giuliani is wrongly accused of not preserving electronic evidence that was seized and held by the FBI.”

Last month, Giuliani conceded that he made public comments falsely claiming the election workers committed ballot fraud during the 2020 election, but he contended that the statements were protected by the First Amendment.

That caveated stipulation, Howell said, has “more holes than Swiss cheese” and suggested Giuliani was more interested in conceding the workers’ claims than actually producing meaningful discovery in the case.

“Yet, just as taking shortcuts to win an election carries risks — even potential criminal liability — bypassing the discovery process carries serious sanctions, no matter what reservations a noncompliant party may try artificially to preserve for appeal,” she said.

Moss had worked for the Fulton County elections department since 2012 and supervised the absentee ballot operation during the 2020 election. Freeman was a temporary election worker, verifying signatures on absentee ballots and preparing them to be counted and processed.

Giuliani and others alleged during a Georgia legislative subcommittee hearing in December 2020 that surveillance video from State Farm Arena showed the election workers committing election fraud.

As those allegations circulated online, the two women said, they suffered intense harassment, both in person and online. Moss detailed her experiences in emotional testimony before the members of Congress investigating the Capitol insurrection. The Jan. 6 committee also played video testimony from Freeman during the hearing in June 2022.

___

Follow Eric Tucker at http://www.twitter/com/etuckerAP

KSL 5 TV Live

Courts & Legal

Handcuffs in a jail cell. (Ravell Call/Deseret News)...

Alexander Campbell

Davis County deputies arrest suspected serial child predator

After a multi-year investigation, a Payson resident is behind bars, having been arrested on suspicion of eight counts of sexual abuse of a child

9 days ago

A 8th District Court judge signed an execution warrant for Taberon Dave Honie on Monday, a man who ...

Karah Brackin

Death warrant signed for Cedar City man convicted of 1998 murder

The Utah Department of Corrections shared new details Tuesday about the execution warrant for Taberon Honie.

9 days ago

A West Jordan man accused of shooting and killing another man at a Halloween party in 2021 has been...

Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

West Jordan man found guilty in 2021 Halloween party homicide

A West Jordan man accused of shooting and killing another man at a Halloween party in 2021 has been found guilty of murder.

10 days ago

Springville police Officers preparing to break down the front door of Ruby Franke's Springville hom...

Michael Houck

Body camera shows Springville officers breaking into Ruby Franke’s home after children found in Ivins

Body camera footage shows the police response to Ruby Franke's Springville house after her two children were found emaciated and hurt in Ivins on Aug. 30, 2023. 

10 days ago

A 8th District Court judge signed an execution warrant for Taberon Dave Honie on Monday, a man who ...

Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

Utah judge signs execution warrant for Cedar City man convicted in 1998 murder

A Utah judge signed an execution warrant Monday for Taberon Dave Honie, setting his date for lethal injection on Aug. 8.

10 days ago

Davis County School buses at the Bus Farm in Farmington on Friday, Sept. 13. (Matt Gade, Deseret Ne...

Tim Vandenack, KSL.com

Davis School District, ex-employee reach $143,558 settlement in discrimination suit

Davis School District officials and a former employee tasked with investigating racial harassment cases have reached a settlement to resolve the lawsuit she filed against the school system over alleged discrimination.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Judge holds Giuliani liable in Georgia election workers’ defamation case