According to a federal judge, Rudy Giuliani forfeited his case in a defamation suit brought by two Georgia poll workers whom Giuliani had falsely accused of mishandling ballots during the 2020 election in the state, Courthouse News reports. The allegations circulated online, leading to an intense campaign of harassment, including racist death threats against the two Black women. Trump himself also targeted the two women, naming Freeman on his social media site Truth Social. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell wrote in his opinion on Wednesday that Giuliani's refusal to comply with court orders to turn over documents had made the case's discovery process a "murky mess" and ordered the former New York City mayor to disclose financial and business records and pay plaintiffs over $100,000 to reimburse their attorney fees. The Barack Obama appointee wrote that Giuliani's previous agreement with the factual elements of the defamation claims while asserting that his statements were protected "hold[s] more holes than Swiss cheese." In addition to the $132,856 in attorneys’ fees Howell ordered Giuliani and his businesses to pay, Giuliani will have to face trial later this year or in early 2024 to determine the amount of damages he owes to Freeman and Moss.
Howell’s opinion details how despite repeated orders and opportunities from the court, and despite his 50 years of experience as an attorney, Giuliani took his time in turning over documents, including financial records from two of his companies, Giuliani Communications and Giuliani Partners. Although Giuliani did provide a seemingly substantial number of email and communication records from devices the FBI had seized they consisted “almost entirely [of] non-usable, nonresponsive materials,” half of which were “indecipherable blobs.” He had argued that the FBI’s seizure corrupted and wiped the data from his devices, in an attempt to place blame on the government, rather than take responsibility for failing to preserve such records. In July, Giuliani conceded that his claims that Freeman and Moss had tried to commit election fraud were false, but he still insisted he was not liable for “damages allegedly caused by him” and that his statements were protected. Howell called the stipulation “puzzling.” Howell set a Sept. 20, 2023, deadline for Giuliani’s businesses to turn over the records Freeman and Moss requested and to provide them $43,684 in attorneys’ fees, part of the total $132,856.