A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that Rudy Giuliani defamed former Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, and is liable for damages after he failed to comply with discovery obligations in their lawsuit over his baseless claims that they had committed fraud during the 2020 election.
A civil trial will be held to determine the amount of damages.
“The bottom line is that Giuliani has refused to comply with his discovery obligations and thwarted plaintiffs Ruby Freeman and Wandrea ArShaye Moss’s procedural rights to obtain any meaningful discovery in this case,” U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell wrote in a lengthy opinion.
“Just as taking shortcuts to win an election carries risks — even potential criminal liability — bypassing the discovery process carries serious sanctions, no matter what reservations a noncompliant party may try artificially to preserve for appeal,” she added.
Ted Goodman, political adviser to Giuliani, said his client has been “wrongly accused.”
“This 57 page opinion on discovery — which would usually be no more than two or three pages — is a prime example of the weaponization of the justice system, where the process is the punishment,” he said in a statement. “This decision should be reversed, as Mayor Giuliani is wrongly accused of not preserving electronic evidence that was seized and held by the FBI.”
Giuliani conceded in a court filing last month that he had made “false” statements about Freeman and Moss.
“Defendant Giuliani, for the purposes of litigation only, does not contest that, to the extent the statements were statements of fact and other wise actionable, such actionable factual statements were false,” Giuliani wrote in a signed stipulation that he said was intended to “avoid unnecessary expenses in litigating what he believes to be unnecessary disputes.”
Freeman and Moss, have said their lives were turned upside down when conspiracy theorists, as well as then-President Donald Trump and his then-lawyer Giuliani, claimed they had committed election fraud in the 2020 presidential election. A heavily edited, brief clip of security footage was widely circulated online and by Trump allies as supposed proof.
Giuliani had claimed that Freeman and Moss were “passing around USB ports like they were vials of heroin or cocaine.” In reality, as reflected in the Jan. 6 committee report, they were passing a ginger mint.
In a statement responding to the ruling Wednesday, Freeman and Moss stressed that what they went through after the 2020 election was a “living nightmare” but that the ruling puts them “one step closer” to rebuilding their lives.
“Rudy Giuliani helped unleash a wave of hatred and threats we never could have imagined,” they said. “It cost us our sense of security and our freedom to go about our lives. Nothing can restore all we lost, but today’s ruling is yet another neutral finding that has confirmed what we have known all along: that there was never any truth to any of the accusations about us and that we did nothing wrong.”
They added: “We were smeared for purely political reasons, and the people responsible can and should be held accountable. Throughout all of this, we have kept the faith, secure in the knowledge that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. But faith without works is dead. That is why we did not lie down and go away in 2020, 2021, 2022, or 2023, but instead stood up and are still working to see justice done. The fight to rebuild our reputations and to repair the damage to our lives is not over. But today we’re one step closer, and for that we are grateful.”
Trump, Giuliani and top allies, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, were indicted earlier this month on felony charges in connection with efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.
Giuliani, who boosted Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, surrendered to authorities in Georgia last week to face racketeering charges alleging he meddled in the state’s 2020 presidential election. The indictment alleges he was a key part of a criminal conspiracy, pressing election officials to act on voting fraud claims he was repeatedly told were false.
Giuliani was booked on the charges last week and, along with the other co-defendants, will be arraigned on Sept. 6. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.