Giuliani defamation trial: Georgia election workers describe threats and harassment

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A former poll worker in Fulton County, Georgia, described in harrowing detail Tuesday how her life was turned upside down after Rudy Giuliani falsely accused her and her mother of stealing the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump while he was processing mail-in ballots in Atlanta .

It began on December 4, 2020, when Wandrea “Shaye” Moss testified – a day after Giuliani, the former Trump lawyer and mayor of New York City, tweeted surveillance video of a vote count in Atlanta and falsely accused “supervisors” after the When poll workers went home, they pulled suitcases full of ballots from under a table.

“That was the day everything changed, everything in my life changed…Everything just turned upside down…That day, lies were spread about me and my mother…crazy lies,” Moss said in federal court in Washington.

Moss described being scared as she walked three blocks to the parking lot that evening, crying as she read messages, including one in which she was called a “dirty f—ing n—-r b— h” and how she made an appointment for a special trip to the salon to have her hair cut and colored to change her appearance.

The 39-year-old Moss described the effects as having been lasting. She started having panic attacks and was eventually diagnosed with acute stress disorder and severe depression. She quit her $39,000-a-year job at the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections in April 2022, despite loving a job she compared to winning one of Willie Wonka's golden tickets.

“I wanted to retire a county worker like my grandmother and make her and my mother proud. But I didn’t make it,” Moss said, close to tears.

Moss' testimony came on the second day of a damages trial against Giuliani, who is suing Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, for defamation in federal court in the District. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell entered a default judgment against Giuliani in August after admitting that some of his allegations against Moss and Freeman were false. Therefore, the jury's task in this week's trial is limited to determining what damages Giuliani must pay. Moss and Freeman are seeking up to $47 million in damages.

As a federal prosecutor, Rudolph W. Giuliani pioneered the use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to dismantle organized crime. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

During Moss' testimony, Giuliani sat motionless at the defense table and watched. Occasionally he took notes with thick colored pencils. Moss cried repeatedly and often hung his head while speaking. She said that in addition to the emotional toll, the whole experience left her with disbelief that someone of Giuliani's stature could so recklessly destroy her life.

“How can someone with so much power go public and talk about things they clearly have no idea about?” Moss said. “It's just obvious that these are lies and my reaction is that it's hurtful, untrue and unfair.”

The impact, she said, affected her family. Her then-14-year-old son, who received racist text messages and calls on a cellphone that once belonged to his mother, failed all final exams that semester, she said. Her grandmother, with whom Moss was living at the time, received pizza deliveries from harassers that she had to pay for. A pizza was ordered for a person whose first and last name sounded like the racial epithet, which sounds like the N-word. Text messages, voicemails and emails accused her of treason and threatened to hang her.

“They kept telling me that I was facing the death penalty and that they could hang me and my mother. That was my concern,” Moss testified. “I was afraid for my life. I literally felt like someone was coming to hang me and no one could do anything about it.”

Howell began the day by admonishing Giuliani for making comments as he left the courthouse the previous day that could have defamed two Georgia state election officials.

In a court filing late Monday, lawyers for Freeman and Moss called on Howell to intervene after Giuliani, who plans to testify at some point, repeated debunked allegations to reporters outside the federal courthouse that the women rigged the 2020 vote-counting process.

“Everything I said about her is true,” Giuliani told reporters, according to an ABC News report cited by lawyers for Freeman and Moss. He added: “Of course I have no regrets. …I told the truth. They were busy changing votes.”

Howell rebuked Giuliani for the remarks, saying his comments could bolster another defamation lawsuit and pointing out that defense attorney Joseph D. Sibley IV told jurors in his opening statement that the plaintiffs were good people. Sibley had said: “There is no question that these plaintiffs were harmed. “They didn’t deserve what happened to them,” while denying how much blame Giuliani was.

Sibley told Howell he wasn't sure the comments were consistent, but he wasn't present and couldn't control all of his client's comments out of court. He also suggested that Giuliani's age might be in question.

The case has “taken a toll on him,” Sibley said, adding that Giuliani is nearly 80 years old.

Howell postponed further consideration of the motion by Freeman and Moss' attorneys, saying it was time to seat a jury and begin testimony that day, which focused on how Georgia state investigators debunked misleading security video footage, that Giuliani had repeatedly claimed in the weeks after the 2020 election, the two workers brought “suitcases” full of fraudulent votes for Joe Biden.

After the judge rebuked Giuliani, the trial continued with testimony from an investigator before Moss took the stand.

This is a developing story and will be updated.