A jury on Friday ordered Rudolph W. Giuliani to pay $148 million to two former Georgia election officials who said he destroyed their reputations by lying that they tried to steal the 2020 election from Donald J. Trump.
Judge Beryl A. Howell of the federal court in Washington had already ruled that Mr. Giuliani had defamed the two workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. The jury was asked to decide only on the amount of damages.
The jury awarded Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss a total of $75 million in punitive damages. She also ordered Mr. Giuliani to pay compensatory damages of $16.2 million to Ms. Freeman and $16.9 million to Ms. Moss, as well as $20 million to each for emotional distress. .
“Today is a good day,” Ms. Freeman told reporters after the jury made its decision. But she added that no amount of money would give back to her and her daughter what they lost in the abuse they suffered after Mr. Giuliani falsely accused them of manipulating the election count. voice.
Mr. Giuliani, who helped lead Mr. Trump’s efforts to stay in power after his 2020 election defeat but has since suffered a series of legal and financial setbacks, was defiant after the proceedings.
“I have absolutely no regrets,” he declared outside the courthouse, suggesting that he would appeal and that he maintained his assertions about the two women.
He said the torrent of attacks and threats women were receiving from Trump supporters was “abhorrent” and “deplorable,” but that he was not responsible for them.
His lawyer, Joseph Sibley IV, had also argued that Mr. Giuliani, a former New York mayor and federal prosecutor, should not be held responsible for abuse directed at Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss by others.
Mr Sibley had warned that a conviction on the scale sought by the women would be the civil equivalent of the death penalty for his client. Outside the courthouse on Friday, Mr. Giuliani called the amount “absurd.”
Mr. Giuliani’s net worth is unknown because he has refused to comply with the court’s requirement to provide that information. A lawyer familiar with his legal situation said after the verdict that Mr. Giuliani was likely to file for bankruptcy protection. But because the damages he owes to Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss are considered an “intentional tort,” bankruptcy would not erase his liability, the lawyers said.
The case against Mr. Giuliani was one of a series of lawsuits in which plaintiffs sought to use defamation allegations to hold people accountable for their lies about the 2020 election.
Dominion Voting Systems wrested a $787.5 million settlement from Fox News earlier this year after suing the media giant for promoting falsehoods that its voting machines were used in a vote-switching plot from Mr. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr.
In October, an Atlanta judge ruled that a Georgian was allowed to continue his defamation lawsuit against right-wing author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza on the grounds that he was wrongly accused of election fraud in Mr. D’Souza’s book and the film “2000 Mules”.
During hours of emotional testimony during the civil trial in Washington, Ms Freeman and Ms Moss described how their lives were completely upended after December 3, 2020, when Mr Giuliani first suggested they were engaged in electoral fraud to tip the scales. result against Mr. Trump in Georgia, a critical swing state.
The women, who are black and a mother and daughter, were quickly inundated with phone calls and messages laden with profanities, threats and racist attacks, they testified. People said they should be hanged for treason or lynched; others told them they fantasized about hearing the sound of their necks snapping.
They showed up at Ms. Freeman’s home. They attempted to execute a citizen’s arrest of Ms. Moss at her grandmother’s home. They called Ms. Moss’s 14-year-old son’s cell phone so much that it interfered with his virtual classes, and he finished his junior year of high school with failing grades.
“It all started with a tweet,” Ms. Freeman told the jury, referring to a social media post by Mr. Giuliani saying: “WATCH: Video footage from Georgia shows suitcases stuffed with ballots pulled out from under a table AFTER the supervisors told the poll workers. to leave the place and 4 people remained behind to continue counting the votes.
Mr. Giuliani did not testify at the trial. He later explained that this was because “if I made a mistake or did something wrong,” he thought the judge would find him in contempt or put him in jail. “And I thought, honestly, it wouldn’t do me any good.”
Mr. Giuliani is indicted in Georgia, where a local prosecutor brought racketeering charges against him, Mr. Trump and others in connection with their efforts to overturn the former president’s election defeat there.
Lawyers for Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss had asked the jury to send a message when deciding how much Mr. Giuliani should pay.
“Send it to Mr. Giuliani,” one of the lawyers, Michael J. Gottlieb, said in his closing argument Thursday. “Send it to any other powerful figure with a platform and an audience who wonders if they will seize the opportunity to seek profit and glory by assassinating the moral character of ordinary people.”
Ms Moss said she and her mother would continue to fight for justice.
“Our greatest wish is that no election worker, voter, school board member or anyone else has an experience comparable to what we had,” she said.
Alan Feuer reports contributed.