A federal judge has found former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani liable for defaming two Georgia election workers who he falsely accused of tampering with the 2020 election results.
Giuliani will still go to trial in D.C. federal court on the amount of monetary damages he owes to Ruby Freeman and Wandrea ArShaye Moss for defaming them. But Judge Beryl A. Howell has already ordered Giuliani to pay roughly $132,000 in sanctions between his personal and business assets for failures to hand over relevant information to the plaintiffs.
Last month, Giuliani agreed not to contest that he made false and defamatory claims about the two poll workers, but said he would argue that his comments were constitutionally protected speech that did not cause damage. On Wednesday, Howell said that admission had “more holes than Swiss cheese,” and that Giuliani was trying “to bypass the discovery process and a merits trial — at which his defenses may be fully scrutinized and tested in our judicial system’s time-honored adversarial process—and to delay such a fair reckoning by taking his chances on appeal.”
Howell said Giuliani cannot avoid handing over financial information, including metrics for a podcast on which he impugned the Georgia workers. He also must pay sanctions for failing to hand over that information as well as other records earlier. If he continues not to comply, Howell said, she will instruct the jury deciding damages to “infer that he is intentionally trying to hide relevant discovery about his financial assets for the purpose of artificially deflating his net worth.”
She suggested he was trying to avoid making public information that could hurt him in other civil and criminal cases. Earlier this month, Giuliani was charged in Georgia with involvement in a scheme to subvert the election results.
“Just as taking shortcuts to win an election carries risks—even potential criminal liability—bypassing the discovery process carries serious sanctions, no matter what reservations a noncompliant party may try artificially to preserve for appeal,” Howell wrote.
Giuliani political adviser Ted Goodman said in a statement that the ruling was “a prime example of the weaponization of our justice system, where the process is the punishment” and “should be reversed.”