Closing summary

  • A jury has ordered Rudy Giuliani to pay former election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, $148.1m after he spread lies about them following the 2020 election. It is one of the most significant verdicts to date seeking accountability for those who attempted to overturn the 2020 election.

  • There were gasps in the courtroom when the amount was read out and the judge stumbled over the number as she read out the verdict, according to media reports.

  • Giuliani did not appear to show any emotion as the damages were announced. Former Atlanta election workers Freeman and Moss hugged their attorney after the amount was announced.

  • The damages were $100m above what the women had asked for and included nearly $16.2m and $17m in compensatory damages for Freeman and Moss respectively. It also included $20m to each woman for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and an additional $75m in punitive damages. Giuliani owes approximately $275,000 in additional legal fees.

  • Giuliani himself dismissed the verdict and told reporters outside the Washington federal courthouse that he will appeal, saying the “absurdity of the number merely underscores the absurdity of the entire proceeding”. “It will be reversed so quickly it will make your head spin, and the absurd number that just came in will help that actually,” he said.

  • Speaking outside court on Friday, Freeman said: “Today’s a good day. A jury stood witness to what Rudy Giuliani did to me and my daughter and held him accountable, and for that I’m thankful. Today is not the end of the road, we still have work to do. Rudy Giuliani was not the only one who spread lies about us, and others must be held accountable too. But that is tomorrow’s work.”

  • Freeman’s daughter, Shaye Moss, also gave a statement, saying: “The flame that Giuliani lit with those lies and passed to so many others to keep that flame blazing changed every aspect of our lives – our homes, our family, our work, our sense of safety, our mental health. And we’re still working to rebuild.”

This is the end of our live coverage of the damages trial. You can read the full report by Sam Levine here:

And Rachel Leingang has looked at how the multimillion-dollar ruling against Giuliani shows the cost of spreading election lies:

Thanks for following along.

Key events

A legal analyst for CNN explains that the punitive damages awarded to two former election workers were intended to “send a message to Rudy Giuliani and to the general public”.

Elie Honig told Jake Tapper: “When we think about the inequities in this case, when we think about an extraordinarily powerful, remorseless liar like Rudy Giuliani, compared to these women or civil servants, they never signed up for this. Their lives were turned over and I think that’s why you see such a high number here from the jury.”

Here are a few of the pictures that have dropped on the newswires from outside the court after the verdict:

Ruby Freeman makes her statement outside the courthouse.
Ruby Freeman makes her statement outside the courthouse. Photograph: Bonnie Cash/Reuters
Rudy Giuliani smiles for the cameras as he departs defamation lawsuit.
Rudy Giuliani smiles for the cameras as he departs the defamation lawsuit. Photograph: Bonnie Cash/Reuters
Former Georgia election worker Shaye Moss speaks to reporters.
Former Georgia election worker Shaye Moss speaks to reporters. Photograph: Bonnie Cash/Reuters
A member of security gets into an altercation with a protester.
A member of security gets into an altercation with a protester. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The damages included nearly $16.2m and $17m in compensatory damages for Freeman and Moss respectively.

It also included $20m to each woman for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and an additional $75m in punitive damages.

Giuliani owes approximately $275,000 in additional legal fees.

Here’s some more reaction to the verdict:

NEW: Rudy Giuliani’s $148M verdict in the Georgia election workers defamation case drew “audible gasps” in the courtroom and exceeded what the plaintiffs were asking for in damages, @KenDilanianNBC.

“This exceeds probably what anyone thought was possible.” pic.twitter.com/JO4AIfJpqr

— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) December 15, 2023

After the verdict, Giuliani appeared to be trying to rewrite history by claiming he hadn’t been able to present his side of the argument in court.

Giuliani had in fact been due to testify on Thursday but declined to do so at the last moment.

On Friday, he tried to paint a different picture, telling reporters: “I’ve not been allowed to present a single piece of evidence in defence, of which I have a lot.

“I am quite confident when this case gets before a fair tribunal it’ll be reversed so quickly it’ll make your head spin.”

Here is video of that statement:

Rudy says he’s not been allowed to offer one single piece of evidence in his defense. It was HIS choice to refuse to comply with discovery. It was HIS choice not to testify. Dont believe him. https://t.co/Eud2moNclQ

— Mueller, She Wrote (@MuellerSheWrote) December 15, 2023

Rachel Leingang

My colleague Rachel Leingang has written this analysis about the staggering damages award:

The judge had already decided Rudy Giuliani defamed the two former Georgia election workers, the question was just how much that cycle of lies and ensuing harassment should cost him.

A jury declared on Friday that it was worth an eye-popping $148m, far beyond expectations and a major blow to the former New York mayor and key Donald Trump ally.

The case was one of a handful of ways pro-democracy groups are seeking consequences for election subversion ahead of the next presidential election. The plaintiffs hope the high-dollar decision will show to Giuliani and others that there’s a financial and human cost to spreading lies. The stakes are high with the 2024 presidential election quickly approaching and Trump probably on the ballot once again.

You can read her full piece here:

Ruby Freeman: ‘Today is not the end of the road. We still have work to do’

In her statement after the trial, Ruby Freeman gave an insight into the continued impact of Giuliani’s false claims on her life.

Ruby Freeman outside court, with her daughter behind her.
Ruby Freeman outside court, with her daughter Shaye Moss behind her. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

She said:

Today is not the end of the road. We still have work to do. Rudy Giuliani wasn’t the only one who spread lies about us and others must be held accountable too.

But that is tomorrow’s work. For now I want people to understand this. Money would never solve all of my problems. I can never move back to the house that I call home. I will always have to be careful about where I go and who I choose to share my name with.

I miss my home, I miss my neighbors and I miss my name.

Moss went on to thank the court and jury for listening to her and her mother’s experience in the aftermath of Giuliani’s defamatory statements.

Her voice broke slightly when she added: “I know I won’t be able to retire from my job with the county like my grandma did, but I hope having taken these very big steps towards justice, I can make her proud.”

Shaye Moss: Giuliani’s lies changed every aspect of our lives

Here is more from what Shaye Moss said outside the court:

The lies Rudy Giuliani told about me and my mommy after the 2020 presidential election have changed our lives and the past few years has been devastating.

The flame that Giuliani lit with those lies and passed to so many others to keep that flame blazing changed every aspect of our lives – our homes, our family, our work, our sense of safety, our mental health. And we’re still working to rebuild.

As we move forward and continue to seek justice, our greatest wish is that no one … ever experiences anything like what we went through.

Key moments from the trial

Today’s verdict comes at the end of an emotional week for former election workers Moss and Freeman. They had to relive their ordeal in testimony at the federal court in Washington DC and told how it had ruined their lives.

Here are some of the key moments from this week’s trial:

  • Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss both testified about the disastrous effects of lies spread by Rudy Giuliani and others who put them at the center of an election conspiracy theory. They shared examples of the racist, harassing, threatening messages they received after being publicly named by election deniers.

  • Freeman said she had to leave her home for safety reasons. She hired a lawyer to help keep her name off any home-related documents for her new place. She feels like she’s lost who she is, her good name, in this web.

  • Moss detailed how these actions made her anxious to even leave the house and caused her son to get harassed, eventually failing his classes. She said she still doesn’t really go out.

  • Giuliani was initially expected to testify. But after two separate incidents of him doubling down, his team did not put him on the stand. His lawyer said the women had been through enough, but also pointed to Gateway Pundit, the rightwing media outlet, as more culpable for the harassment.

  • Ashlee Humphreys, a professor from Northwestern University and an expert witness of Freeman and Moss, walked through the significant reputational damage done to Freeman and Moss, showing how their names are now associated with election fraud.

  • Freeman and Moss’ lawyer, Michael Gottlieb, said they hope the case sends a clear message to people launching smear campaigns not to do it.

  • The jury began deliberations on Thursday and returned their verdict on Friday afternoon.

The sum awarded to Freeman and Moss was $100m above what they had asked for – and media reports said gasps were heard in the courtroom when the final sum was read out. CNN reported the judge stumbled over her words when reading out the final sum.

The verdict is likely to be far beyond Giuliani’s means. In closing arguments, his lawyer, Joseph Sibley, said the original $48m amount would be “catastrophic” for his client.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Gottlieb argued: “Mr Giuliani thought he could get away with making Ruby and Shaye the face of election fraud because he thought they were ordinary and expendable.

“He has no right to offer defenseless civil servants up to a virtual mob in order to overturn an election.”

Sam Levine

Sam Levine

My colleague Sam Levine has more from Freeman’s statement outside the court:

“Today is not the end of the road, we still have work to do. Rudy Giuliani was not the only one who spread lies about us, and others must be held accountable too. But that is tomorrow’s work.

“I want people to understand this,” she added. “Money will never solve all my problems. I can never move back into the house that I call home. I will always have to be careful about where I go and who I choose to share my name with. I miss my home, I miss my neighbors, and I miss my name.”

Former election worker Ruby Freeman reacts to verdict, saying she is ‘thankful’

Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss gave a statement outside court after they were awarded $148m in damages.

Freeman said: “A jury stood witness to what Rudy Giuliani did to me and my daughter and how I answered that. I’m thankful.”

Ruby Freeman said after a jury awarded her and her daughter Shaye Moss nearly $150 million, “Today’s a good day. A jury stood witness to what Rudy Giuliani did to me and my daughter and how I answered that. I’m thankful.” pic.twitter.com/N5inwJbGtF

— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) December 15, 2023

The judgment adds to growing financial and legal peril for Giuliani, who was among the loudest proponents of Trump’s false claims of election fraud that are now a key part of the criminal cases against the former president, AP writes.

Giuliani had already been showing signs of financial strain as he defends himself against costly lawsuits and investigations stemming from his representation of Trump. His lawyer suggested that the defamation case could financially ruin the former mayor, saying “it would be the end of Mr Giuliani.”

Giuliani says ‘absurdity of the number underscores absurdity of proceedings’

Giuliani told reporters outside Washington’s federal courthouse that he will appeal, saying the “absurdity of the number merely underscores the absurdity of the entire proceeding”.

“It will be reversed so quickly it will make your head spin, and the absurd number that just came in will help that actually,” he said.

Giuliani had already been found liable in the case and previously conceded in court documents that he falsely accused the women of ballot fraud.

Even so, the former New York City mayor continued to repeat his baseless allegations about the women in comments to reporters outside the Washington DC courthouse this week.

Giuliani’s lawyer acknowledged that his client was wrong but insisted that Giuliani was not fully responsible for the vitriol the women faced. The defense sought to largely pin the blame on a rightwing website that published the surveillance video of the two women counting ballots.

Moss and Freeman hugged attorney after gasps about verdict

AP has a bit more from the hearing today:

The damages verdict follows emotional testimony from Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, who tearfully described becoming the target of a false conspiracy theory pushed by Giuliani and other Republicans as they tried to keep then-President Donald Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election.

There was an audible gasp in the courtroom when the jury foreperson read aloud the $75 million award in punitive damages for the women. Moss and Freeman were each awarded another roughly $36 million in other damages.

Giuliani didn’t appear to show any emotion as the verdict was read after about 10 hours of deliberations. Moss and Freeman hugged their attorneys after the jury left the courtroom and didn’t look at Giuliani as he left with his lawyer.

Giuliani told reporters outside Washington’s federal courthouse that he will appeal, saying the “absurdity of the number merely underscores the absurdity of the entire proceeding.”

Giuliani told to pay $148m in damages to former election workers

Sam Levine

Sam Levine

A Washington DC jury has ordered Rudy Giuliani to pay $148.1m to two Atlanta election workers after he spread lies about them, one of the most significant verdicts to date seeking accountability for those who attempted to overturn the 2020 election.

The verdict follows a four-day trial in which Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, her daughter, gave haunting details about the harassment and threats they faced after Giuliani falsely accused them of trying to steal the election in Georgia. The women, who are Black, described how they fled, are afraid to give their names in public, and still suffer severe emotional distress today. Their lawyers asked the jury to award them each at least $24m in damages.

The case is the latest in a series of cases in which plaintiffs have used defamation law to push back on lies spread about them since the 2020 election. The voting equipment vendor Dominion settled with Fox for $787m earlier this year in a defamation case. Freeman and Moss also have a pending lawsuit against the Gateway Pundit, a far-right news outlet. Last year, they also settled with One America News, another far-right outlet. Civil rights groups are turning to defamation law as a new tool to ward off misinformation.





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