RUDY GIULIANI MUST PAY MORE THAN $148M OVER FALSE ELECTION CLAIMS
(BBC) Rudy Giuliani, a longtime associate of former President Donald Trump, has been ordered to pay more than $148m (£116m) to two women over false claims they tampered with votes in 2020.
A judge had already found Mr. Giuliani liable of making defamatory claims about Georgia poll workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss.
Ms. Moss said after the verdict that the past few years had been “devastating”.
The verdict came after a four-day trial to determine the penalty.
On Friday, the eight-person jury ordered $20m payments for defamation to be made to each victim.
They were also each awarded over $16m for emotional distress, the jury ruled. Another payment of $75m in punitive damages was ordered to be split between them.
They had originally sought between $15m and $43m in damages from Mr Giuliani, Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer.
Addressing reporters outside the court, Mr. Giuliani said: “I don’t regret a damn thing.”
Michael Gottlieb, the lawyer for Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss, said during closing arguments on Thursday that Mr. Giuliani was “patient zero” of the misinformation.
He said that, during three days of evidence and testimony, the jury had “experienced a sliver of the unspeakable horror that [Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss] suffered”.
He said a stiff financial penalty was necessary to “send a message” to Mr. Giuliani and to “any other powerful figure with a platform”.
Mr. Giuliani had been expected to testify in his own defence on Thursday, but those plans were abruptly cancelled.
“Honestly, I didn’t believe it would do any good,” Mr. Giuliani said after the verdict on Friday, adding that he planned to appeal the “absurd” penalty.
Mr. Giuliani is worth about $50m, according to an estimate by CBS News, the BBC’s US partner.
His lawyers earlier urged the jury to be measured as they considered the penalty.
They said that, although the former mayor of New York did spread lies after the 2020 presidential election, he was not as responsible – or as malicious – as lawyers for the two women argued.
In courtroom testimony in Washington DC on Wednesday, Ms. Freeman recounted having to flee her home after a group of Trump supporters gathered outside and the FBI told her she was in danger.
The incident happened after Mr. Giuliani shared a video of them, which he falsely said showed evidence of ballot tampering.
“I took it as though they were going to hang me with their ropes on my street,” Ms. Freeman said. “I was scared. I didn’t know if they were coming to kill me.”
Ms. Freeman said that she was left isolated by Mr. Giuliani’s actions. Friends and acquaintances grew afraid to be linked to her, she said, and she has felt forced to live a life of seclusion because of lingering fears she will be recognised publicly.
Addressing reporters on Friday, the women said that more lawsuits may be forthcoming for other public figures that had spread lies about them.
“They must be held accountable too,” said Ms. Freeman.
“Money will not solve all of my problems,” she continued. “I can’t move home, I will always have to be careful… I miss my home, I miss my neighbours and I miss my name.”
The trial in Washington DC was just one of the legal cases Mr. Giuliani is facing.
In Georgia, Mr. Giuliani faces criminal charges, including making false statements, in an election-subversion case against Mr. Trump. Mr. Giuliani has pleaded not guilty.
A former business associate is also suing him for $10m over sexual harassment claims.
And according to recent court filings from the Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Giuliani owes more than half a million dollars in federal taxes.
In September, Mr. Trump reportedly hosted a $100,000-a-plate dinner at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, to raise money for a legal defence fund for Mr. Giuliani.
Back in 2018, Mr. Giuliani’s divorce case heard claims of his lavish spending. His ex-wife, Judith Giuliani, said that in a five-month period he spent nearly a million dollars.
This was said to include $12,012 on cigars, $7,131 on fountain pens, $286,000 on an alleged mistress, $447,938 “for his own enjoyment” and $165,000 on travel.