Giuliani will not testify in the defamation trial of Georgia election workers

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Rudy Giuliani repeatedly promised that he would use his defamation trial to explain why he falsely claimed that two Georgia poll workers helped steal the 2020 election. Instead, he remained silent in court. But jurors still heard words from Donald Trump's former personal attorney that dated back to the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and extended into this week.

“Never single out someone smaller than you. Never be a bully,” said Michael Gottlieb, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, quoting from a memoir the former New York mayor wrote after the attacks on the World Trade Center. It's a lesson Giuliani learned from his father.

“Those are wise words,” Gottlieb said. “If only Mr. Giuliani had listened.”

Instead, Gottlieb said, Giuliani continued to lie about Ruby Freeman and Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, mother and daughter of the poll workers, who said they were inundated with vicious threats and racial slurs after he falsely accused them of helping to falsify the election results in Georgia to the detriment of the Republican incumbent Trump.

Gottlieb made a closing statement Thursday after Giuliani, who has repeatedly said he wants to testify in his defamation damages trial, declined to comment.

Outside court on Monday, Giuliani told reporters that “everything I said about them is true.” He agreed before the trial not to dispute that his claims about the two women were false; Judge Beryl A. Howell found in August that his comments were defamatory. The jury, which began deliberations on Thursday and will continue on Friday, will only be asked how much Giuliani owes Freeman and Moss for the avalanche of poison that destroyed their lives. The couple is asking a federal court in Washington to award them up to $47 million in damages.

“Day after day, Mr. Giuliani reminds you of who he is,” Gottlieb told the jury. He said Giuliani's defense strategy was to convince jurors that he was more important than the women he defamed: “Rich famous people have valuable reputations, and ordinary people are irrelevant, replaceable and worthless.” Mr Giuliani's reputation, comfort and goals are more important than those of Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. This is a fiction and it ends today.”

Gottlieb said that when Giuliani wrote his memoirs, the former U.S. attorney “appreciated that public officials are, on the whole, decent people working to improve our country.” Now, Gottlieb said, Giuliani only cares about himself yourself and continue to benefit from election lies with appearances in right-wing media.

In response, defense attorney Joseph D. Sibley IV said Giuliani did not take the stand out of respect for two women who had “been through enough.” He said that “of course” nothing unusual happened in the vote count in Georgia. But Sibley argued that Giuliani shouldn't pay them a “catastrophic” amount of money because other people were equally or more responsible for spreading the false claims. And he said there would be no greater benefit from forcing Giuliani to pay a hefty sentence.

“People who believe this stuff will still believe it no matter what,” Sibley said. He argued that Giuliani was one of those people.

Rudy Giuliani's involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election may have landed him in insurmountable legal trouble. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

“Mr. “Giuliani is a good man,” he said, acknowledging that “he hasn't exactly helped himself with some of the things that have happened in the last few days.”

Sibley added: “I have no doubt that Mr. Giuliani’s statements have caused harm. “No question.” But he said the real “Patient Zero” was the far-right website Gateway Pundit, which identified Freeman and Moss by name in the hours after Giuliani and Trump's campaign distributed a deceptively edited video of the two women counting votes. Gateway Pundit is also facing a defamation lawsuit. Lawyers for publisher Jim Hoft said in court filings that the website “reported on the claims of third parties, such as Trump's legal team.”

“Rudy Giuliani could have stopped all of this,” Gottlieb said. He called his clients “heroes” who stood up to a tyrant, adding: “Unlike some other people, they testified.”

Defendants rarely risk testifying in court. In Giuliani's specific situation, he is already facing criminal charges in a 2020 Georgia election case and has been identified as an unindicted “co-conspirator 1” in Trump's federal election obstruction case, meaning he has repeatedly violated his 5th Amendment rights himself should have asserted it. Prosecution under cross-examination.

The trial began Monday and both women testified in tears before the plaintiffs rested their case Wednesday evening. Jurors began deliberating over lunch Thursday around 1:30 p.m

Earlier this week, Freeman described her comfortable life as an independent business executive in a home where she lived for 20 years until nasty, racist news poured in on Dec. 4, 2020, after Giuliani said she submitted thousands of fake ballots for Joe Biden in the presidential election.

The threats came via voicemails, emails, text messages, Facebook Messenger and Instagram. “You’re dead,” one person wrote. “Your family and you are now criminals and traitors to the union. BLM wants the cops gone, good thing they’re in the way of my ropes and your tree.”

Then it got worse. “They started coming to the house with megaphones,” Freeman said. “I was scared. I was scared because I didn't know [if] Now they're coming to kill me. I was just scared.”

Freeman had to leave her long-time home and spent the next few months moving from place to place with her belongings in her car. She cried as she described feeling homeless.

Freeman said the false claims ruined her reputation and dashed her dreams of expanding her clothing boutique, Ruby's Unique Treasures. She was wearing a “Lady Ruby” T-shirt while working as a poll worker in Atlanta on November 3, 2020, which made her easy to spot when Giuliani shared the video of her.

She testified that she had hoped to open a brick-and-mortar store but could no longer use her name or advertise.

“I don’t have my name anymore,” Freeman said through tears. “That’s the only thing in life. The only thing you have is your name. My life is just a mess, and it’s all because someone put me on blast and tweeted my name.”

Moss testified that she dreamed of retiring as a county government employee like her grandmother. Instead, suffering from panic attacks and depression, she quit a $39,000-a-year job at the county elections office, which she compared to winning a Willy Wonka golden ticket. “I didn’t make it,” Moss said, close to tears. “I was afraid for my life. I literally felt like someone was coming to hang me and no one could do anything about it.”

On Wednesday, a Northwestern University marketing professor testified that a group of 16 defamatory online and media mentions of Freeman and Moss beginning in December 2020 have been seen about 35 million times. Ashlee Humphreys testified that it would cost $47 million to restore women's reputations with a campaign on the same media platforms, repeating each message five times for impact.

Sibley argued in his closing arguments that Giuliani could not have predicted that the response to his claims would be violent and racist. Gottlieb denied that his rebuttal was the last words the jury heard before receiving sentencing instructions from Howell. “He called them drug dealers and criminals,” Gottlieb reminded jurors. Giuliani repeatedly said that the two women appeared to be passing around USB sticks that could change the election results as well as vials of drugs. Moss testified that the item her mother handed her during the vote count was a ginger mint.

The reaction of Trump supporters to Giuliani's words was “foreseeable,” said Gottlieb. “It was inevitable.”

Salvador Rizzo contributed to this report.