Judge finds Rudy Giuliani liable for defamation of two Georgia election workers: NPR

Rudy Giuliani is found responsible for defaming two Georgia election officials by repeatedly claiming the women tampered with 2020 ballots, a federal judge ruled.


A judge has ruled against Rudy Giuliani in a defamation lawsuit filed by two election officials whom he falsely accused of election fraud. The ruling comes as Giuliani is being prosecuted for similar acts in a sweeping indictment against the former New York mayor, former President Donald Trump and 17 others in Georgia. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler reports the story. Hi Stephen.


SHAPIRO: Tell us more about this defamation lawsuit. Who brought it and what did Giuliani do to them?

FOWLER: Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss are the mother-daughter poll worker duo in Atlanta's Fulton County who are at the center of a series of conspiracies and attacks by Trump, Giuliani and others who claimed without evidence that they voted in the presidential election Georgia fraudulent ballots counted election that changed the outcome. Here is one of the allegations Giuliani made in a Georgia legislative hearing in December 2020.


RUDY GIULIANI: …Shot of Ruby Freeman and Shaye Freeman Moss and another gentleman clearly secretly passing around USB ports as if they were vials of heroin or cocaine.

FOWLER: Well, Ari, in this particular video, they said they were passing each other a ginger mint. Republican state officials in Georgia found no evidence that they changed the vote totals. And as Freeman testified before the House committee on January 6, these claims have left them facing life-altering threats and harassment.


RUBY FREEMAN: I have lost my name and my reputation. I lost my sense of security. All because a group of people, starting with Number 45 and his ally Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me and my daughter Shaye.

SHAPIRO: That was Ruby Freeman speaking. The judge issued a so-called default judgment against Giuliani, holding him liable for defamation allegations and more. Explain to us what that means.

FOWLER: So basically, in this lawsuit, Rudy Giuliani didn't turn over any evidence through the normal legal process called disclosure. Now he calls it, quote: “punishment through trial.” But federal judge Beryl Howell sharply rebuked Giuliani's failure to comply with the disclosure, condemning him for, quote, “putting on a cloak of victimization that might well resonate with certain audiences on a public stage.”

Now Giuliani must pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees for the poll workers, on top of the nearly $100,000 a judge previously ordered. And this is still going to court. But instead of deciding whether he defamed those poll workers with those comments, the question now will be how much he has to pay him – them – for what he did.

SHAPIRO: And these false claims that Giuliani made are also central to the federal crimes case against former President Trump and others in Georgia. So explain how these two cases are related to each other.

FOWLER: Absolutely. That's why Giuliani is being prosecuted in Georgia for comments he made about Freeman and Moss, including the clip we just heard in which he accused them of passing around USB sticks as if they were cocaine. One of the charges Donald Trump faces in this extortion case is that he falsely described Freeman as a professional voter fraudster, including in connection with the Georgia election. And here's the thing – it's a central element of many of the charges and allegations in this racketeering case, including three people being charged for allegedly trying to pressure Ruby Freeman to falsely confess to committing election fraud . And it's very complicated because there are 19 different defendants, all with different legal strategies. But several experts I've spoken to say this particular defamation ruling and any evidence Giuliani may present could be important to prosecutors in the racketeering case.

SHAPIRO: This is Stephen Fowler with Georgia Public Broadcasting. Thank you very much.

FOWLER: Thank you.

Copyright © 2023 NPR. All rights reserved. For more information, please visit the Terms of Use and Permissions pages of our website at www.npr.org.

NPR transcripts are produced by an NPR contractor on a rush basis. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The definitive record of NPR programming is the audio recording.