Trump’s ex-lawyer Giuliani told to pay $148m for defaming election workers

Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani was found liable in August for defaming two election workers [File: Seth Wenig/AP Photo]

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who served as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, has been ordered to pay $148m in damages to two former election workers he defamed with false claims about the 2020 presidential election.

An eight-person federal jury in Washington, DC, said on Friday that Giuliani should pay Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss $75m in punitive damages, plus $36m each for defamation and emotional distress, for falsely claiming that they tried to rig the election against Trump.

The award comes after Freeman and Moss, two former poll workers in Fulton County, Georgia, testified that Giuliani’s false claims had made them the target of a flood of racist and sexist threats.

In court, Moss and Freeman, who are black, described fearing for their lives after being falsely accused of hiding ballots in suitcases, counting votes multiple times and interfering with voting machines.

Freeman testified that she fled her home after the FBI told her she wasn’t safe, and Moss told jurors she rarely leaves her home and suffers from panic attacks.

“Our greatest wish is that no one, no election worker, or voter or school board member or anyone else ever experiences anything like what we went through,” Moss told reporters after the verdict. “You all matter, and you are all important.”

A federal judge had found Giuliani liable in August, leaving it to a jury to decide on the level of damages.

Giuliani, who had argued his election comments had no connection to the threats the women received, described the jury verdict as absurd.

The “absurdity of the number merely underscores the absurdity of the entire proceeding”, he said.

“It will be reversed so quickly it will make your head spin, and the absurd number that just came in will help that, actually.”

Giuliani also claimed that his remarks “were supportable and are supportable today”.

Giuliani’s lawyer, Joseph Sibley, had acknowledged that his client had caused harm, but argued that the $48m penalty asked for by the two election workers would be “the end” for Giuliani and that he was a “good man”.

The verdict adds to a growing list of legal and financial woes for Giuliani, who, before joining Trump’s inner circle, was known as “America’s Mayor” for leading New York through the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Giuliani, along with Trump and 17 others, has been charged with participating in an illegal plot to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

In 2021, Giuliana had his licences to practise law in New York and Washington, DC, suspended over his false statements about the 2020 election.

In September, the 79-year-old former prosecutor was sued by his former lawyer for allegedly only paying a fraction of $1.6m outstanding legal fees.

He is also being sued by Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, for alleged computer fraud and by a former employee over alleged wage theft and sexual harassment.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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