World

Defamation damages trial against Rudy Giuliani begins

Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani arrives at the federal courthouse in Washington (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani arrives at the federal courthouse in Washington (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani arrives at the federal courthouse in Washington (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Jury selection got underway in the federal case that will determine how much Rudy Giuliani might have to pay two Georgia election workers.

Mr Giuliani falsely accused the two of fraud while pushing Donald Trump’s baseless claims after the 2020 election.

The former New York City mayor has already been found liable in the defamation lawsuit brought by Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea Shaye Moss, who endured threats and harassment after they became the target of a conspiracy theory spread by Mr Trump and his allies.

Giuliani Election Trial
Giuliani Election Trial Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani is expected to enter the witness box, according to his lawyer (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The only issue to be determined at the trial is the amount of damages, if any, Mr Giuliani must pay.

Mr Giuliani did not speak to reporters as he entered Washington’s federal courthouse — the same building where Mr Trump is set to stand trial in March on criminal charges accusing the former president of scheming to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden.

Mr Giuliani is expected to enter the witness box, his lawyer said, raising questions about whether his evidence could also put him in jeopardy in a separate criminal case in Georgia.

Mr Trump, Mr Giuliani and others are accused of trying to illegally overturn the results of the election in the state.

The legal and financial woes are mounting for Mr Giuliani, who was celebrated as “America’s mayor” in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack and became one of the most ardent promoters of Mr Trump’s election lies.

In the Georgia civil lawsuit, Mr Giuliani is accused of making false statements to lawmakers during hearings in December 2020.

While showing a surveillance video from State Farm Arena in Atlanta, where ballots were counted in the days after the election, Mr Giuliani said election workers committed election fraud.

Sexual Misconduct Lawsuits
Sexual Misconduct Lawsuits Mr Trump, Mr Giuliani and others are accused of trying to illegally overturn the results of the election in the state (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Specifically, he said, Ms Freeman and Ms Moss were “quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine” and it was obvious they were “engaged in surreptitious illegal activity”.

The claims about the election workers were quickly debunked by Georgia officials, who found no improper counting of ballots.

Mr Giuliani has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case and maintains he had every right to raise questions about what he believed to be election fraud.

He was also sued in September by a former lawyer who alleged Mr Giuliani only paid a fraction of roughly 1.6 million dollars (£1.2 million) in legal fees stemming from investigations into his efforts to keep Mr Trump in the White House.

The judge overseeing the election workers’ lawsuit has already ordered Mr Giuliani and his business entities to pay tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees.

Overseeing the defamation case is District Judge Beryl Howell, who is well-versed in handling matters related to Mr Trump, having served as chief judge of Washington’s federal court for the entirety of Mr Trump’s presidency.

Ms Moss had worked for the Fulton County elections department since 2012 and supervised the absentee ballot operation during the 2020 election.

Ms Freeman was a temporary election worker, verifying signatures on absentee ballots and preparing them to be counted and processed.

Trump Fraud Lawsuit
Trump Fraud Lawsuit Mr Giuliani became one of the most ardent promoters of Mr Trump’s election lies (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

The women have said the false claims led to an barrage of violent threats and harassment that at one point led Ms Freeman to leave her home for more than two months.

In emotional testimony before the US House Committee that investigated the US Capitol attack, Ms Moss recounted receiving an onslaught of threatening and racist messages.

In an August decision holding Mr Giuliani liable in the case, Judge Howell said the adviser to Mr Trump gave “only lip service” to complying with his legal obligations and had failed to turn over information requested by the mother and daughter.

In October, the judge said that Mr Giuliani had flagrantly disregarded an order to provide documents concerning his personal and business assets.

She said that jurors deciding the amount of damages would be told they must infer that Mr Giuliani was intentionally trying to hide financial documents in the hopes of “artificially deflating his net worth”.

Mr Giuliani conceded in July that he made public comments falsely claiming Ms Freeman and Ms Moss committed fraud while counting ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

However, Mr Giuliani argued that the statements were protected by the First Amendment.