WASHINGTON (AP) — Jurors began deliberating Thursday to decide how much Rudy Giuliani must pay two former Georgia election workers for spreading lies about them that led to a barrage of racist threats and upended their lives.
The jury left for the day without announcing a decision and were expected to resume deliberations at Washington’s federal courthouse Friday morning.
Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, are seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages over Giuliani’s false claims accusing them of ballot fraud while the former New York City mayor was fighting to keep Republican Donald Trump in the White House after the November 2020 election won by Democrat Joe Biden.
The potential hefty damages come at the same time Giuliani is gearing up to defend himself against criminal charges stemming from his legal representation of Trump. Giuliani’s lawyer told jurors the damages the women are seeking “would be the end of Mr. Giuliani.”
In his closing argument, an attorney for Moss and Freeman highlighted how Giuliani has not stopped repeating the false conspiracy theory asserting the workers meddled in the 2020 presidential election. Attorney Michael Gottlieb played a video of Giuliani outside the courthouse earlier this week repeating the false claims about his clients. Giuliani had previously conceded in court documents that he made public comments falsely accusing the women of ballot fraud.
“Mr. Giuliani has shown over and over again he will not take our client’s names out of his mouth,” Gottlieb said. “Facts will not stop him. He says he isn’t sorry and he’s telegraphing he will do this again. Believe him.”
Giuliani’s attorney acknowledged that his client was wrong, but insisted that he was not fully responsible for the vitriol the women faced. He sought to largely pin the blame on a right-wing website that published the surveillance video of the women counting ballots.
Gottlieb described Freeman and Moss as “heroes,” adding that “after everything they went through, they stood up and said, ‘no more.’” He also read from a chapter in Giuliani’s book on leadership where the former mayor said his father told him never to be a bully. The lawyer said: “If only Mr. Giuliani had listened.”
“The lies in this case became a sustained, deliberate, viral campaign, the purpose of which was to overturn an election and have these statements rocket around the world millions and millions of times,” Gottlieb said.
The women’s lawyers are asking for at least $24 million for each woman in defamation damages alone. They’re also seeking compensation for their emotional harm and punitive damages. Gottlieb asked the jury to send a message to other powerful people with the amount they award.
“Facts matter. Truth is truth and you will be held accountable,” he said.
Giuliani’s lawyer has said any award should be much less, describing the damages the women are seeking as the “civil equivalent of the death penalty.” Attorney Joseph Sibley told jurors they should compensate the women for what they are owed, but urged them to “remember this is a great man.”
“I want you to send a message to America, we can come together in compassion and sympathy,” he said.
His lawyer has argued there is no evidence Giuliani himself encouraged the harassment. Sibley told jurors that right-wing website Gateway Pundit was “patient zero” in spreading the conspiracy theory about the women, and said Giuliani was sued because he is “patient deep pockets.”
“Just because these things happened — and they did happen — doesn’t make my client responsible for them,” Sibley said.
Giuliani’s defense rested Thursday morning without calling a single witness after the former mayor reversed course and decided not to take the stand. Giuliani’s lawyer had told jurors in his opening statement that they would hear from his client but after his comments outside court, the judge barred him from claiming in testimony that his conspiracy theories were right.
Giuliani’s lawyer said his client was not testifying because Freeman and Moss had “been through enough.” His testimony also could have been used against him in the criminal case in Georgia.
On the witness stand, Moss and Freeman recounted receiving a torrent of hateful and threatening messages after they became the targets of the conspiracy theory pushed by Giuliani and other Trump allies. The women told jurors the lies made them fear for their lives and described how they remain scared to go out in public years later.
Despite already being held liable in the case, Giuliani repeated his false claims about the women earlier this week. On Monday, he told reporters outside the courthouse that everything he said about the women was “true,” again accusing them of “engaging in changing votes.”
The case is among mounting legal and financial woes for the man once celebrated as “America’s mayor” for his leadership after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Giuliani is among 19 people charged in Georgia in the case accusing Trump and his allies of working to subvert the state’s 2020 election results. Giuliani has pleaded not guilty and characterized the case as politically motivated.
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