A federal judge sided with two Georgia election workers Wednesday who sued Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for defamation in 2021 after he accused them of fraud.
U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama appointee, issued a default judgement against Giuliani holding him liable for defamation, civil conspiracy and emotional distress. The judgement was entered after Giuliani “refused to comply with his discovery obligations,” failing to preserve electronic records requested by the attorneys for election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss.
“Donning a cloak of victimization may play well on a public stage to certain audiences, but in a court of law this performance has served only to subvert the normal process of discovery in a straight-forward defamation case, with the concomitant necessity of repeated court intervention,” Howell wrote.
“Perhaps, he has made the calculation that his overall litigation risks are minimized by not complying with his discovery obligations in this case,” Howell continued. “Whatever the reason, obligations are case specific and withholding required discovery in this case has consequences.”
A trial will be held sometime between November 2023 and February 2024 to determine how much the election workers should be awarded in damages, Howell determined. Giuliani will also be required to produce records relating to revenue generated by his podcast, Common Sense, and previously requested financial documents by September 20.
“[J]ust as taking shortcuts to win an election carries risks — even potential criminal liability — bypassing the discovery process carries serious sanctions,” Howell wrote. (RELATED: Fulton County Sheriff’s Office Releases Rudy Giuliani’s Mugshot)
Giuliani pointed to the FBI’s seizure of his electronic devices as a reason for his failure to preserve and produce the required information, noting it would cost him over $320,000 to pay a vendor to access the archived documents, according to court documents.
Ted Goodman, a political advisor to Giuliani, said that the ruling “is a prime example of the weaponization of our justice system, where the process is the punishment” in a statement provided to the Associated Press.
“This decision should be reversed, as Mayor Giuliani is wrongly accused of not preserving electronic evidence that was seized and held by the FBI,” Goodman said, according to AP.
Giuliani conceded the claims he made about Freeman and Moss were false in a July court filing, though he noted that does not impact his argument that the statements are “constitutionally protected.”
Giuliani is also one of 19 co-defendants indicted in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ case against Donald Trump for alleged efforts to interfere in the 2020 election in Georgia.
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