The Case Against Giuliani
On December 15th, 2023, Rudy Giuliani, a former attorney for Donald Trump, was ordered to pay $148 million in damages to two Georgia poll workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, for defaming their character by spreading election fraud conspiracy theories about them and their work during the 2020 election.
Judge Beryl Howell, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., had previously ruled on August 30th, 2023 that Giuliani defamed the poll workers with repeated false accusations that they stole votes on election night in 2020. Giuliani’s statements were part of an effort to overturn the 2020 election results and were determined to be “false and unsubstantiated” by a related Georgia State Elections Board investigation. Even after these allegations were proven false, Giuliani doubled-down and repeated the conspiracy theory numerous times, including as the recent trial was underway.
This most recent trial phase was to determine the amount of damages Giuliani would be required to pay the poll workers for his defaming statements.
An expert in sociology and communications testified about the reach of Giuliani’s defamatory election fraud claims on social media. Before December 3rd, 2020, the first instance of Giuliani making these false claims, there were practically no online searches for the election employees. After December 3rd, there was a dramatic increase of focused attention on them for several months.
Giuliani’s statements led to waves of racist and violent threats and harassment against the plaintiffs, two poll workers serving their county during a busy election cycle in Georgia. His defamatory accusations led to threats that made the plaintiffs fear for their lives and their families lives, as well as prevented them from securing jobs. One of the plaintiffs even testified that in so acting, Giuliani had “offer[ed] defenseless civil servants up to a virtual mob.” The FBI informed the plaintiffs that they were not safe as people showed up to their homes, threatening them and their safety. Their mental health spiraled as a result of repeated death threats and harassment.
A jury of everyday U.S. citizens returned a verdict that Giuliani must pay $148 million in total damages to the plaintiffs for his actions.
The two Georgia election workers sought compensatory damages, based on the defamatory statements and infliction of emotional distress, as well as punitive damages. Compensatory damages cover the amount needed to repair the reputation damage caused by Giuliani’s defamatory statements. The plaintiffs asked the jury for $24 million each in compensatory damages, and the jury ended up awarding them over $36 million each in compensatory damages. They asked the jury to use their best judgment for punitive damages, and the jury awarded them $75 million each. This is in addition to the $230K in legal fees and sanctions the judge previously ordered Giuliani to pay.