On Wednesday, a federal judge awarded a default judgment to two Georgia election workers as part of their civil defamation suit against former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. U.S. Judge Beryl Howell found Giuliani liable for his defamatory remarks, leveling harsh sanctions against him (including the default judgment), and ordering a trial to determine the complete scope of damages.
The election workers, mother-daughter Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, sued the former New York City mayor for defamation over erroneous remarks he made accusing the pair of fraudulently manipulating ballots on Election Day 2020 in Georgia. Freeman and Moss became the subjects of a Trump-backed conspiracy theory that was later found to be “false and unsubstantiated,” according to an investigation by the Georgia Elections Board. In an appearance before a committee of the Georgia state legislature, Giuliani told lawmakers that a video circulating online showed “Ruby Freeman and Shaye Freeman Moss … quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports, as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine.”
U.S. Judge Beryl Howell said in a 57-page opinion in the case: “The bottom line is that Giuliani has refused to comply with his discovery obligations and thwarted plaintiffs Ruby Freeman and Wandrea’ ArShaye Moss’ procedural rights to obtain any meaningful discovery in this case … Rather than simply play by the rules designed to promote a discovery process necessary to reach a fair decision on the merits of plaintiffs’ claims, Giuliani has bemoaned plaintiffs’ efforts to secure his compliance as ‘punishment by process’ … 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 straightforward defamation case.”
In a statement, Freeman and Moss lauded the ruling: “Rudy Giuliani helped unleash a wave of hatred and threats we never could have imagined. It cost us our sense of security and our freedom to go about our lives. 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.”
Judge Howell wrote that a trial to determine the full scope of damages will take place later this year or early next, adding that “the jury will be instructed that they must, when determining an appropriate sum of punitive damages, infer that Giuliani is intentionally trying to hide relevant discovery about his financial assets for the purpose of artificially deflating his net worth.”
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