Judge holds Giuliani liable for withholding information in Georgia election worker defamation case

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge held Wednesday Rudy Giuliani liable in a defamation action by two poll workers from Georgia who say they have been falsely accused of fraud, Verdict that the former New York mayor “only paid lip service” to complying with his legal obligations while trying to portray himself as a victim in the case.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said the punishment was necessary because Giuliani failed in his duty as a defendant to turn over information requested by poll workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea' ArShaye Moss as part of their lawsuit.

The decision moves the case to trial in Washington, which could result in Giuliani being ordered to pay significant damages to the women, on top of the tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees he already has to pay.

The workers' December 2021 lawsuit accused Giuliani, one of Donald Trump's lawyers and a confidant of the former Republican president, of defaming them incorrectly stated that they had committed fraud in the counting of ballots at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

In a statement Wednesday, the women said they had experienced a “living nightmare” and an unimaginable “wave of hate and threats” because of Giuliani's comments.

“Nothing can restore everything we have lost, but today's verdict is another neutral finding that confirms what we have always known: that there was no truth to any of the allegations against us and that we did nothing wrong.” We have been vilified for purely political reasons and those responsible can and should be held accountable,” they said.

The ruling increases the legal danger for Giuliani at a time when he and Trump are both at odds 19 defendants was indicted this month in a racketeering case related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. There is also the possibility of a massive fine for Giuliani if ​​the case moves to a federal trial in Washington, where a jury would decide the damages for which he may be liable.

He will have a “final opportunity” to provide the requested information, known under the law as disclosure, but could face additional sanctions if he fails to do so. Meanwhile, Howell said Giuliani and his companies would have to pay more than $130,000 in legal fees.

Howell expressed skepticism about Giuliani's claims that he could not afford to pay compensation to the plaintiffs in the case, pointing out that he recently listed his Manhattan apartment for $6.5 million, according to reports According to reports, he flew to Atlanta on a private plane to face the charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

“On a public stage, it may be good for certain viewers to don a cloak of victimization, but in court this appearance has only served to undermine the normal discovery process in a simple defamation case, with the attendant need for a retrial.” Intervention,” Howell wrote.

Howell said that aside from an initial document production of 193 pages, the information Giuliani turned over consisted largely of “a single page of communications, chunks of indecipherable data” and “a fraction of the financial documents to be produced.”

“Perhaps he assumed that his overall litigation risks would be minimized by not complying with his disclosure obligations in this case,” Howell said. “Whatever the reason, the obligations are case specific and withholding required disclosure in this case has consequences.”

The judge said: “Giuliani paid only lip service to compliance with his disclosure obligations.”

Giuliani has attributed his failure to provide the requested documents to the fact that his devices were seized by federal investigators in 2021 as part of a separate Justice Department probe that resulted in no criminal charges.

Ted Goodman, a political adviser to Giuliani, said in a statement that the judge's decision is “a prime example of the weaponization of our justice system, where trial is punishment.” This decision should be reversed because Mayor Giuliani was wrong is accused of failing to preserve electronic evidence seized and preserved by the FBI.”

Last month, Giuliani admitted that he did public comments He falsely claimed that poll workers committed voter fraud in the 2020 election, but claimed that the statements were protected by the First Amendment.

That caveat, Howell said, had “more loopholes than Swiss cheese” and suggested that Giuliani was more interested in admitting the workers' claims than actually making meaningful discovery in the case.

“But just as taking shortcuts to win an election carries risks – even potential criminal liability – circumventing the investigative process carries serious sanctions, regardless of what reservations a non-compliant party tries to artificially maintain in order to appeal.” , she said.

Moss worked for the Fulton County Elections Department since 2012 and oversaw absentee voting during the 2020 election. Freeman served as a temporary poll worker, verifying signatures on absentee ballots and preparing them for counting and processing.

Giuliani and others claimed during a hearing before the Georgia legislative subcommittee in December 2020 that surveillance video from State Farm Arena showed poll workers committed voter fraud.

As these allegations circulated online, the two women said they were subjected to intense harassment both in person and online. moss described their experiences in emotional testimony to members of Congress investigating the Capitol insurrection. The Jan. 6 committee also played video testimony from Freeman during the June 2022 hearing.


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