Judge rules Giuliani liable in defamation of Fulton County election workers with false fraud claims

A federal judge has issued a default judgment against Rudy Giuliani in a defamation lawsuit filed by two Fulton County election workers and ordered him to pay more than $130,000 in attorney fees.

In a decision Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell sanctioned the former New York mayor and Trump ally for failing to fulfill his obligation to provide evidence to the attorneys of election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea "Shaye" Moss. 

In her decision, Howell called Giuliani's actions the "willful shirking of his discovery obligations" by not providing information, saying he "has given only lip service to compliance with his discovery obligations and this Court’s orders by failing to take reasonable steps."

"The bottom line is that Giuliani has refused to comply with his discovery obligations and thwarted plaintiffs Ruby Freeman and Wandrea’ ArShaye Moss’s procedural rights to obtain any meaningful discovery in this case," Howell said.

Howell ruled that Guiliani has now been to reimburse over $43,000 in fees and costs associated with Freeman and Moss' motion in court to receive information from Giuliani's businesses. The two had already won nearly $90,000 in attorney court fees for a previous motion.

Freeman and Moss' lawsuit, which was filed in December 2021, accused Giuliani of defaming them by falsely stating that they had engaged in fraud while counting ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

Rudy Giuliani speaks to the media after leaving the Fulton County jail on August 23, 2023 in Atlanta. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The lawsuit says Giuliani repeatedly pushed debunked claims that Freeman and Moss — mother and daughter — pulled out suitcases of illegal ballots and committed other acts of fraud to try to alter the outcome of the race.

Moss told the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol that her life was shattered by the false accusations. She said she received hateful and racist messages, some "wishing death upon me. Telling me that I’ll be in jail with my mother. And saying things like, ‘Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.’"

Freeman said in her testimony: "There is nowhere I feel safe."

In a July filing, Giuliani conceded that he made public comments falsely making statements about ballot fraud, but argued that the statements were protected by the First Amendment.

Giuliani’s statement was attached to a filing arguing that he did not fail to produce evidence in the case and should not be sanctioned as Freeman and Moss had requested.

Freeman and Moss filed a motion this month alleging that Giuliani had "failed to take any steps to preserve relevant electronic evidence." They know such evidence exists because other people provided it to them, their filing says. They asked U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington to impose sanctions.

While Giuliani's lawyers argued that he did not fail to preserve or destroy any electronic evidence "because all pertinent documents were seized by the government" in April 2021 when the authorities executed a search warrant at his home and office, Judge Howell didn't agree.

Wandrea ArShaye Shaye Moss, a Fulton County, Ga., elections worker, is handed a piece of candy by her mother, Ruby Freeman, while testifying during the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol fourth hearing

"His choice to make no effort to comply with the May 31 Order, or even file his two Stipulations prior to the June 30, 2023 compliance deadline, can be seen as nothing else than ignoring court orders," Howell wrote 

Beryl also ordered Giuliani, Freeman, and Moss to come up with three dates where the case can go to a jury to determine damages by 2024.

You can read the full ruling below.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.