Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani arrives at the federal courthouse in Washington on Wednesday, December 13, 2023. The trial will determine how much Rudy Giuliani must pay two Georgia election workers he falsely accused of fraud while pushing President Donald Trump about unfounded claims after he lost the 2020 election. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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Jurors began deliberating Thursday to decide how much Rudy Giuliani must pay two former Georgia election officials for spreading lies about them that led to a barrage of racist threats and upended their lives.
Jurors departed that day without announcing a decision and were expected to resume deliberations Friday morning at the Washington federal courthouse.
Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman are seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages over Giuliani's false claims that he accused them of election fraud as the former New York mayor fought to keep Republican Donald Trump in the White House after the November 2020 election was won by Democrat Joe Biden.
The potentially large damages come as Giuliani prepares to defend himself against criminal charges arising from his legal representation of Trump. Giuliani's lawyer told jurors that the damages sought by the women “would mean the end of Mr. Giuliani.”
In his closing argument, a lawyer for Moss and Freeman emphasized that Giuliani has not stopped repeating the false conspiracy theory that workers interfered in the 2020 presidential election. Attorney Michael Gottlieb played a video of Giuliani outside the courthouse earlier this week in which he repeated the false claims about his clients. Giuliani had previously acknowledged in court documents that he falsely accused the women of voter fraud in public comments.
“Mr. “Giuliani has shown time and time again that he won't take the names of our customers out of his mouth,” Gottlieb said. “Facts won't stop him. He says he's not sorry and he telegraphs that he still is will do one day. Believe him.”
Giuliani's lawyer acknowledged his client was wrong but insisted he was not entirely responsible for the viciousness the women faced. He tried to shift much of the blame to a right-wing website that published surveillance video of the women counting ballots.
Gottlieb described Freeman and Moss as “heroes,” adding, “After everything they had been through, they stood up and said 'No more.'” He also read from a chapter in Giuliani's book on leadership, in which the former Mayor said his father told him to never be a bully. The lawyer said, “If only Mr. Giuliani had listened.”
“The lies in this case became a sustained, deliberate, viral campaign designed to overturn an election and broadcast these statements millions of times around the world,” Gottlieb said.
The women's lawyers are seeking at least $24 million in defamation damages for each woman alone. They are also seeking compensation for their emotional harm and punitive damages. Gottlieb asked the jury to send a message to other powerful people with the amount they awarded.
“Facts are important. Truth is truth and you will be held accountable,” he said.
Giuliani's lawyer said the compensation should be much less, describing the damages the women are seeking as the “civil law equivalent of the death penalty.” Attorney Joseph Sibley told jurors they should compensate the women for what they deserve but urged them to “remember that this is a great man.”
“I want you to send a message to America, we can come together in compassion and compassion,” he said.
His lawyer argued there was no evidence that Giuliani himself encouraged the harassment. Sibley told jurors that the right-wing website Gateway Pundit had “patient zero” in spreading the conspiracy theory about the women and said Giuliani was sued because he had “patient deep pockets.”
“Just because these things happened – and they did happen – doesn't mean my client is responsible for them,” Sibley said.
Giuliani's defense rested Thursday morning without calling a single witness after the former mayor changed course and decided not to take the stand. Giuliani's lawyer had told jurors in his opening statement that they would hear from his client, but after his comments outside court, the judge barred him from saying his conspiracy theories were correct.
Giuliani's lawyer said his client did not testify because Freeman and Moss had “been through enough.” His testimony could also have been used against him in the criminal case in Georgia.
On the witness stand, Moss and Freeman reported receiving a barrage of hateful and threatening messages after becoming targets of the conspiracy theory promoted by Giuliani and other Trump allies. The women told jurors that the lies made them fear for their lives and described how they were still afraid to go out in public years later.
Although Giuliani has already been held accountable in the case, he repeated his false claims about the women earlier this week. On Monday, he told reporters outside the courthouse that everything he said about the women was “true” and again accused them of “engaging in voting changes.”
The case is one of the growing legal and financial problems facing the man once hailed as “America's Mayor” for his leadership skills after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Giuliani is among 19 people charged in Georgia in the case that accuses Trump and his allies of working to undermine the state's 2020 election results. Giuliani pleaded not guilty and called the case politically motivated.