Judge criticizes Giuliani's lawyer for the ex-mayor's absence from the preliminary hearing for election workers in Georgia

Rudy Giuliani failed to show up for a hearing Tuesday ahead of his defamation trial, leading to his lawyer receiving harsh criticism from the federal judge in Washington, D.C., who was overseeing the case.

US District Judge Beryl Howell Attorney Joseph Sibley sharply questioned attorney Joseph Sibley about Giuliani's unexpected absence and whether they are ready for next week's trial, which will decide how much money Giuliani owes two Georgia poll workers for defaming her after the 2020 election.

Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss sued Giuliani, a close ally of former President Trump and ex-mayor of New York, after he made a series of false statements about their work at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, where ballots were being counted. He and other Trump allies falsely claimed that election workers – a mother-daughter duo – committed fraud by processing “suitcases” of illegal ballots. The election workers were both present in court in Washington on Tuesday.

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Sibley told Howell that Giuliani was in New York and took the blame for his absence. He claimed he misinterpreted the judge's September standing order requiring all parties to be present during the trial and at hearings before it.

“How could you miss that,” Howell asked Sibley, clearly frustrated. “And did you miss it?”

“I did…I apologize,” Sibley replied.

“Well, that sets the tone for this, doesn't it?” Howell noted, later adding that Giuliani's absence “is not a good start to the process we're about to begin.”

The Hill reached out to Sibley for comment.

The hearing was expected to address last-minute logistics ahead of the trial, which is expected to begin Monday with jury selection.

Attorneys for Freeman and Moss told the judge they plan to call four witnesses and provide excerpts from several witness statements. Among those deposed were two of Giuliani's co-defendants in the sweeping Georgia crime case, Jenna Ellis and Ray Smith III. Trump is also a co-defendant in this case.

Howell noted that Ellis invoked her Fifth Amendment right more than 400 times during testimony and Smith invoked her rights more than 300 times. She asked whether Giuliani — who is expected to testify in the defamation trial — plans to assert that right as well. Sibley said he did not believe Giuliani intended to do so.

“If he were here, we could figure it out,” Howell said.

Giuliani repeatedly evaded the court's orders during the proceedings. In August, after failing to turn over evidence to election officials despite the court's “repeated warnings,” Howell found him civilly liable for their claims of “defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and punitive damages.”

“Given Giuliani's willful rejection of his disclosure obligations leading up to and during this litigation, Giuliani is left with little choice,” Howell wrote in her decision.

Ted Goodman, a political adviser to Giuliani, suggested in a Monday statement to The Hill that Howell's “biases and prejudices were well known” after the judge confirmed that a jury trial would take place.

A jury of eight Washington residents will be empaneled to decide the case. The process is expected to take about a week.

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