Jury to Decide How Much Giuliani Pays in Defamation Suit


An attorney for two Georgia election workers told jurors on Dec. 11 that Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s former attorney, owed his clients tens of millions of dollars in damages after spreading lies about their conduct during the 2020 presidential election.

The plaintiffs—Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss—seek as much as $43 million. Mr. Giuliani’s attorney, Joseph Sibley, suggested that the amount was “the civil equivalent of a death penalty” and that granting the plaintiffs’ request would spell “the end” for his client.

Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss are seeking damages for defamatory statements and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Their attorney, Michael Gottlieb, urged the jury to use the punitive damages to send a message that Mr. Giuliani’s conduct was not inevitable and wouldn’t be tolerated.

U.S. District Chief Judge for the District of Columbia Beryl Howell issued a default judgment against Mr. Giuliani in August after he failed to produce documents and other information requested by the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Mr. Giuliani also opted not to contest allegations that he made false and defamatory statements about the election workers.

Threatening Messages

Representing the plaintiffs, attorney Von Dubose used his opening argument to emphasize the value of an individual’s reputation before exhibiting some of the threatening and harassing messages that Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman received.

“Piece of f—–g s–t,” read one. Another read: “You’re a traitor of the United States. Turn yourself in now.” Other messages displayed during the trial used the n-word.

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The plaintiffs’ first witness, security and risk analyst Regina Scott, answered questions about her firm Jenson Hughes’ monitoring of the damages to Ms. Moss’s and Ms. Freeman’s reputations.

The election workers had been identified in a video clip that became widely circulated after the 2020 general election. In it, they are seen allegedly mishandling ballots. An investigation by the Georgia Elections Board later cleared Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss of wrongdoing, but the two women said the damage had been done.

Ms. Scott’s testimony included data surrounding the number of media posts mentioning the plaintiffs in the years following Mr. Giuliani’s statements in December 2020. From Nov. 21, 2021, to May 1, 2023, there were 710,000 mentions of the plaintiffs, according to Ms. Scott’s reporting. More than 90 percent, or 657,095, came through Twitter.

Mr. Sibley questioned Ms. Scott on her employees’ qualifications and their methods for monitoring information about the two former election workers. Mr. Sibley also pressed Ms. Scott on whether she could attribute the flood of negative web posts to Mr. Giuliani’s comments.

He urged jurors to focus on “proximate cause” or the idea that there should be a direct connection between Mr. Giuliani’s speech and the subsequent harassment.

Selecting Jurors

The day began with jury selection. Judge Howell asked questions primarily surrounding prospective jurors’ history with the legal system and whether they believed that parts of their background would preclude them from making a fair and impartial decision in the trial.

She also asked if prospective jurors had ever used the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon,” a well-known phrase that means “f–k Joe Biden.”

Ms. Howell then screened prospective jurors based on their answers to her initial questions. She asked about their professions and any affirmative answers they might have given to questions that she had asked at the beginning of the day.

Multiple prospective jurors were excused, including one who claimed to have worked for the Al Jazeera news network and indicated strong feelings about the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

Among the eight selected jurors were a U.S. Forest Service employee and a Defense Intelligence Agency cost analyst.

The trial is expected to last a week and could spill over into another. It’s one of many lawsuits that Mr. Giuliani is facing, including some related to his conduct surrounding the 2020 presidential election.

He pleaded not guilty on Sept. 1 to charges in the Georgia election fraud case, where President Trump is also being charged.

Joseph Lord, Catherine Yang, and Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.


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