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Judge Rules Against Giuliani in Defamation Case Brought by Election Workers

Giuliani only gave “lip service to compliance with his discovery obligations,” said the judge overseeing the case.

Rudy Giuliani speaks to the media after leaving the Fulton County jail on August 23, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia.

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who was once a personal lawyer for Donald Trump, had forfeited his defense in a defamation lawsuit in which two Georgia election workers alleged that Giuliani had peddled false claims that they had committed fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Giuliani’s statements about the election workers in question — Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss — were debunked numerous times in the months following Trump’s 2020 loss to President Joe Biden.

Giuliani had wrongly asserted, for instance, that Freeman and Moss had added ballots to Biden’s totals so he could win the state of Georgia. During a hearing with Georgia lawmakers in late 2020, Giuliani defended his false claims by likening Freeman and Moss to drug dealers, insinuating in a thinly veiled racist attack that the two had handled USB memory sticks like “vials of cocaine.”

“It’s obvious to anyone who’s a criminal investigator or prosecutor that they are engaged in surreptitious, illegal activity,” Giuliani said, providing no evidence to back up his assertions. “And they’re still walking around Georgia. They should have been questioned already. Their homes should have been searched for evidence.”

The statements from Giuliani — which Trump has echoed in the months since — prompted Trump loyalists to wage a relentless harassment campaign against Freeman and Moss. The election workers say they faced several death threats, many of which had racist overtones.

On Wednesday, District Judge Beryl Howell found that Giuliani had failed to abide by the terms of the case, as he hadn’t maintained access to his own electronic records for discovery and hadn’t responded to subpoenas from Freeman’s and Moss’s lawyers.

“Giuliani has given only lip service to compliance with his discovery obligations … and thwarted plaintiffs Ruby Freeman and Wandrea ‘Shaye’ Moss’s procedural rights to obtain any meaningful discovery in this case,” Howell said in her ruling.

Howell noted that Giuliani would likely try to claim the ruling was unfair, a tactic he’s employed in numerous cases that involve him or Trump.

“Donning a cloak of victimization may play well on a public stage to certain audiences, but in a court of law this performance has served only to subvert the normal process of discovery,” Howell said.

Now that Giuliani has lost the case through the default judgment, there will be a trial— either at the end of this year or at the beginning of 2024 — to determine how much he’ll owe Freeman and Moss. Although Giuliani faces the possibility of having to pay millions of dollars in penalties, it appears that the former mayor is struggling to afford his legal fees, as he recently traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to plead with the former president for financial assistance.

Trump has reportedly given Giuliani verbal assurance that he will help. However, according to reports of the meeting, Trump was vague about how much he would provide to his former lawyer, and did not offer a timeline for when Giuliani should expect to receive the aid.

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