Jurors hear threats made to election workers after Rudy Giuliani’s false claims

11 December 2023, 21:34

Giuliani Election Trial
Giuliani Election Trial. Picture: PA

The case in Washington will determine how much the former New York mayor will have to pay.

Lawyers played audio recordings of graphic and racist threats received by two women after Rudy Giuliani falsely accused them of fraud while pushing Donald Trump’s baseless claims after the 2020 election.

The recordings were part of the opening statements in a federal case that will determine how much Mr Giuliani might have to pay the women in damages.

The former New York City mayor has already been found liable in the defamation lawsuit brought by Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea Shaye Moss, who endured threats and harassment after they became the target of a conspiracy theory spread by Mr Trump and his allies.

The women’s lawyers estimated that reputational damages could reach 47 million dollars (£37 million), and suggested emotional and punitive damages on top of that could be “tens of millions”.

Mr Giuliani’s lawyer said any award should be much less.

The recordings played by the lawyers included threats accusing the women of treason and threats to their lives.

Giuliani Election Trial
Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani is expected to enter the witness box, according to his lawyer (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The women got hundreds of similar calls, text messages and emails, said attorney Von DuBose.

People also showed up at Ms Freeman’s home to pound on her door and at her mother’s house to make “citizen’s arrests,” Mr DuBose said.

“Mr Giuliani and his co-conspirators stole the lives Ms Moss and Ms Freeman by destroying their names,” Mr DuBose said.

Ms Freeman and Ms Moss’s lawyers also played recordings of Mr Giuliani falsely accusing them of sneaking in ballots in suitcases, counting ballots multiple times and tampering with voting machines.

“None of that – none of that – was true,” Mr DuBose said.

Mr Trump also repeated the conspiracy theories through his social media accounts, something lawyer Michael Gottlieb called “the most powerful amplifier on earth”.

The then-president also assailed Ms Freeman and Ms Moss in his speech on January 6 2021, around the same time people with flags and bullhorns came to Ms Freeman’s home.

She was not there, however, because she had fled her home after the FBI had told her it was not safe.

Mr DuBose said Ms Freeman eventually had to sell her house of 20 years.

Mr Gottlieb asked the jury to award substantial damages to send a message that “in the United States of America, behaviour like Rudy Giuliani’s is not the inevitable result of politics. It is not acceptable and it will not be tolerated”.

Mr Giuliani’s attorney, Joseph Sibley, said Ms Freeman and Ms Moss are “good people” who did not deserve the treatment they received.

Sexual Misconduct Lawsuits
Mr Trump, Mr Giuliani and others are accused of trying to illegally overturn the results of the election in the state (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

But he argued there was little evidence that Mr Giuliani was directly responsible for the threats and harassment directed their way, and the former mayor never encouraged it.

“This is something other people did independent of Mr Giuliani,” Mr Sibley said.

He argued that the amount of money they want in damages is the “civil equivalent of the death penalty”.

He said he would ask the jury to award an amount they believe is fair, but at a much lower level.

Mr Giuliani did not speak to reporters as he entered Washington’s federal courthouse — the same building where Mr Trump is set to stand trial in March on criminal charges accusing the former president of scheming to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden.

Mr Giuliani is expected to enter the witness box, his lawyer said, raising questions about whether his evidence could also put him in jeopardy in a separate criminal case in Georgia.

Mr Trump, Mr Giuliani and others are accused of trying to illegally overturn the results of the election in the state.

The legal and financial woes are mounting for Mr Giuliani, who was celebrated as “America’s mayor” in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack and became one of the most ardent promoters of Mr Trump’s election lies.

In the Georgia civil lawsuit, Mr Giuliani is accused of making false statements to lawmakers during hearings in December 2020.

While showing a surveillance video from State Farm Arena in Atlanta, where ballots were counted in the days after the election, Mr Giuliani said election workers committed election fraud.

Trump Fraud Lawsuit
Mr Giuliani became one of the most ardent promoters of Mr Trump’s election lies (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Specifically, he said, Ms Freeman and Ms Moss were “quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine” and it was obvious they were “engaged in surreptitious illegal activity”.

The claims about the election workers were quickly debunked by Georgia officials, who found no improper counting of ballots.

Mr Giuliani conceded in July that he made public comments falsely claiming Ms Freeman and Ms Moss committed fraud while counting ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

However, Mr Giuliani argued that the statements were protected by the First Amendment.

Giuliani has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case and maintains he had every right to raise questions about what he believed to be election fraud.

He was also sued in September by a former lawyer who alleged Mr Giuliani only paid a fraction of roughly 1.6 million dollars (£1.2 million) in legal fees stemming from investigations into his efforts to keep Mr Trump in the White House.

The judge overseeing the election workers’ lawsuit has already ordered Mr Giuliani and his business entities to pay tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees.

Overseeing the defamation case is District Judge Beryl Howell, who is well-versed in handling matters related to Mr Trump, having served as chief judge of Washington’s federal court for the entirety of Mr Trump’s presidency.

Ms Moss had worked for the Fulton County elections department since 2012 and supervised the absentee ballot operation during the 2020 election.

Ms Freeman was a temporary election worker, verifying signatures on absentee ballots and preparing them to be counted and processed.

In emotional testimony before the US House Committee that investigated the US Capitol attack, Ms Moss recounted receiving an onslaught of threatening and racist messages.

In an August decision holding Mr Giuliani liable in the case, Judge Howell said the adviser to Mr Trump gave “only lip service” to complying with his legal obligations and had failed to turn over information requested by the mother and daughter.

In October, the judge said that Mr Giuliani had flagrantly disregarded an order to provide documents concerning his personal and business assets.

She said that jurors deciding the amount of damages would be told they must infer that Mr Giuliani was intentionally trying to hide financial documents in the hopes of “artificially deflating his net worth”.

By Press Association

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