A D.C. federal jury on Friday slapped Rudy Giuliani with $148 million in damages for defaming two Georgia election workers.
Giuliani admitted to the underlying facts in the case in July, and U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell for the District of Columbia agreed to hold him liable for defaming Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss in an August opinion. That allowed the case to move on to a jury trial to decide damages.
It’s a stunning damages amount, one which reflects not only the vicious campaign of harassment that Giuliani unleashed by falsely claiming that a video showed the two tampering with ballots at a Georgia voting center, but the extent to which Trump’s consigliere went out of his way to make things as bad as possible for himself. Giuliani earned Howell’s wrath throughout the pre-trial phase by repeatedly ignoring evidence requests from Freeman and Moss’ attorneys. During the trial itself, Giuliani stood outside the courtroom and repeated the claims which led to the defamation claim in the first place, further enraging the judge.
Jurors took two days to reach a damages verdict.
Freeman and Moss had asked for $24 million apiece, an amount which Giuliani attorney Joe Sibley described to jurors as a “death sentence.” The jury awarded $16.1 million to Freeman and $16.9 million to Moss for defamation. They received $20 million each in emotional damages and $75 million in punitive. That’s far beyond what the pair requested.
In brief remarks to reporters at the courthouse, Freeman said “today is a good day” but added that money wouldn’t repair what she had lost.
“I can never move back into the house I called my home,” she said.
“Right makes might, because it does,” she added.
Reports from outside the courthouse said that Giuliani exclaimed after the verdict, “I don’t regret a damn thing!” Giuliani added that he intended to appeal the verdict.
The claims that Freeman and Moss were somehow involved in voter fraud never had any semblance of merit. But Giuliani, and later Trump, used video of the pair moving ballots during the counting process to assert to the entire country that the two election workers, both African American women, were responsible for the chimerical fraud that caused the former president’s defeat.
That, the two said at the damages trial, led to a torrent of racist hate spewed at them by Trump’s supporters. The two were forced to leave their homes after Trump assailed them during his speech on the Ellipse and after the FBI warned them of threats.
“Mr. Giuliani and his co-conspirators stole the lives of Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman by destroying their names,” an attorney for the two election workers said.
Giuliani himself declined to testify as the trial drew to a close on Thursday, despite announcing to the public that he would.
The case itself focused on 16 “actionable statements” which Giuliani made on TV and online as the core of the damages claim. A professor from Northwestern University who was asked to testify on the election workers’ behalf told jurors about the “millions” of people who heard Giuliani’s defamatory statements.
Lawyers for the defamed election workers emphasized as well that the lies did not come out of nowhere: Giuliani and Trump were trying to use the two election workers as a means to undo Biden’s victory. One attorney for the two women described the lies as “a sustained, deliberate campaign” aimed at overturning the election.
Giuliani’s decision to repeat those same claims outside of the courtroom during the trial caused even his own attorney to express some consternation. Sibley reportedly told jurors during his closing statements that Giuliani had done “great things” earlier in his life, like serving as a “unifying figure around 9/11.”
“If he hasn’t been so great lately, I want you to judge him by the entire character of who he is,” Sibley said.
It’s not clear how much money Giuliani has left to give. He’s used his podcast to sell some advertisements. Records show that he has been trying unsuccessfully to sell his New York City co-op apartment this year. He told Judge Howell earlier this year (in what may have been another attempt at evasion) that he could not afford to search his own records; Giuliani’s longtime attorney Bob Costello is suing Rudy for $1.5 million in unpaid legal bills, while a telecom provider sued Giuliani and his company earlier this year for $30,000 in unpaid phone bills.
Giuliani is under indictment in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ RICO case, and was listed as co-conspirator 1 in Special Counsel Jack Smiths’ D.C. Jan. 6 prosecution of Donald Trump.
That, plus today’s damages award of a whopping $148 million, does not paint a pretty picture for Rudy. Giuliani reportedly begged Trump himself for cash over the summer to cover his legal bills, but the former president refused.