Guiliani Ordered to Pay $148 Million
A Pyrrhic victory in one of many cases against America's mayor.
NYT (“Jury Orders Giuliani to Pay $148 Million to Election Workers He Defamed“):
A jury on Friday ordered Rudolph W. Giuliani to pay $148 million to two former Georgia election workers who said he had destroyed their reputations with lies that they tried to steal the 2020 election from Donald J. Trump.
Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington had already ruled that Mr. Giuliani had defamed the two workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. The jury had been asked to decide only on the amount of the damages.
The jury awarded Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss a combined $75 million in punitive damages. It 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 of them for emotional suffering.
“Today’s a good day,” Ms. Freeman told reporters after the jury delivered its determination. But she added that no amount of money would give her and her daughter back what they lost in the abuse they suffered after Mr. Giuliani falsely accused them of manipulating the vote count.
Mr. Giuliani, who helped lead Mr. Trump’s effort to remain in office after his defeat in the 2020 election but has endured a string of legal and financial setbacks since then, was defiant after the proceeding.
“I don’t regret a damn thing,” he said outside the courthouse, suggesting that he would appeal and that he stood by his assertions about the two women.
He said that the torrent of attacks and threats the women received from Trump supporters were “abominable” and “deplorable,” but that he was not responsible for them.
His lawyer, Joseph Sibley IV, had also argued that Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and federal prosecutor, should not be held responsible for abuse directed to Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss by others.
Mr. Sibley had warned that an award of the scale being 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.”
While I have zero sympathy for Giuliani and others who tried to steal the election and agree the he defamed the plaintiffs, both the amount of the damages and, especially, the idea he is solely responsible for the do strike me as absurd. He’s being used as a proxy for harms almost entirely caused by others.
NPR (“Giuliani is ordered to pay $148 million to Georgia election workers he defamed“) adds:
In the time after voting ended in 2020, Giuliani shared video from an absentee ballot counting facility in Fulton County, which he falsely claimed showed the two women cheating and scanning ballots multiple times to benefit Joe Biden.
A hand-count audit in Georgia found votes to have been tallied correctly in the 2020 election, and a years-long investigation by the Georgia secretary of state’s office found the accusations against Moss and Freeman to be “false and unsubstantiated.”
“There was no evidence that suggested they did anything wrong, except show up for work and work hard,” testified Frank Braun, who oversaw the investigation for the secretary of state’s office.
In August, district Judge Beryl Howell found Giuliani liable for defamation, due to his lack of cooperation in the case, and Giuliani conceded as part of the proceedings that his statements about Moss and Freeman were false.
So the trial this week was only held to determine the damages Moss and Freeman were owed.
Clearly, Giuliani is partly being punished for his lack of cooperation in the trial—as he should be. But his action here seems limited to a vague tweet.
Throughout the week-long civil trial, attorneys for Moss and Freeman enumerated the wide reach of election lies and the many ways those lies ruined the lives of the two women. An expert witness specializing in marketing and social media estimated that the relevant falsehoods reached tens of millions of people, and that a strategic communications campaign to repair the women’s reputations could cost as much as $47.4 million.
But somehow he’s being held civilly liable for all of the election lies? And the private actions of people who took it upon themselves to harass these two women?
From the NYT account:
Lawyers for Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss had asked the jury to send a message when deciding what Mr. Giuliani should pay.
“Send it to Mr. Giuliani,” one of the lawyers, Michael J. Gottlieb, said in his closing argument on Thursday. “Send it to any other powerful figure with a platform and an audience who is considering whether they will take the chance to seek profit and fame by assassinating the moral character of ordinary people.”
I’ve seen this tactic in criminal trials, with the defendant as a stand-in for all crime in the community, and dislike it then. It’s even weirder when determining civil liability for damages.
Of course, this is mostly academic in that Giuliani almost certainly lacks the ability to pay anything like this amount. Indeed, even his own lawyers have struggled to collect their fees.