A federal jury on Friday ordered Rudolph W. Giuliani to pay two former Georgia election workers more than $148 million for destroying their reputations and causing them extreme emotional distress by spreading baseless lies that they had tried to steal a victory from President Donald J. Trump after the 2020 presidential election.
The award came after Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled that Giuliani, who helped lead Trump's efforts to stay in office after his defeat, had defamed the two workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. The jury in the civil trial had been asked to decide only on the amount of compensation.
The jury awarded Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss a combined $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 each for emotional distress.
During hours of emotional testimony, Freeman and Moss described how their lives had completely changed after December 3, 2020, when Giuliani first suggested that they had engaged in voter fraud to tilt the result against Trump in Georgia, a critical undecided state.
The women, who are black and mother and daughter, were soon inundated with phone calls and messages filled with expletives, 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 Mrs. Freeman's house. They attempted to execute a citizen's arrest on Ms. Moss at her grandmother's house. They called Ms. Moss's 14-year-old son's cell phone so much that he interfered with her virtual classes, and he finished his freshman year of high school with failing grades.
“This all started with a tweet,” Freeman told jurors, referring to a social media post by Giuliani that read: “WATCH: Video footage from Georgia shows suitcases full of ballots pulled from under a table AFTER the supervisors told election workers to make room and 4 people stayed behind to continue counting votes.”
Mr. Giuliani did not testify at the trial. His attorney, Joseph Sibley IV, told jurors that his client, the former New York mayor and federal prosecutor, should not be held responsible for abuse directed at Freeman and Moss by others.
Sibley said Giuliani decided not to testify Thursday in part to avoid putting the women under further emotional strain.
Attorneys for Freeman and Moss asked the jury to send a message when deciding how much 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 is considering whether he will take the opportunity to seek profit and fame by murdering the moral character of ordinary people.”
Sibley warned that compensation on the scale sought by the women would be the civil equivalent of the death penalty for Giuliani, who has been struggling financially and is under indictment in Georgia, where a local prosecutor brought racketeering charges against him, Mr. Trump and others regarding their efforts to overturn the former president's election loss there.
But Mr. Giuliani's net worth is unknown because he refused to comply with routine trial disclosures.
News USA Today has a skilled online editor and content writer, boasting six years of experience in Media and Broadcasting. News, Finance, Sports, Travel, and Entertainment.