by Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]
July 26, 2023
Former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani admitted this week to making false statements against two Fulton County poll workers who came under the dogged attack of election deniers in the aftermath of Georgia’s 2020 election.
Giuliani acknowledged in a U.S. District Court filing on Tuesday he did not object to a judge finding that his defamatory statements caused emotional distress to former Fulton County election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss. The two family members attracted the ire of many conservatives across the U.S. after facing baseless accusations of illegally tallying ballots in the closely contested 2020 presidential election that resulted in Joe Biden defeating incumbent Trump by fewer than 12,000 votes in Georgia.
Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, became a prominent public fixture after Trump’s loss was confirmed that November. He repeatedly claimed the two poll workers were involved in a ballot fixing scheme favoring Biden. Last year, Freeman and Moss filed a defamation lawsuit against him seeking monetary damages for weaponizing surveillance footage of the State Farm Arena ballot-counting room from election night. Giuliani’s attempts to peddle baseless conspiracy theories that widespread election fraud occurred resulted in harassment and threats being lodged against the election workers.
In the days after the 2020 general election, Giuliani visited Georgia’s state Capitol in an attempt to persuade lawmakers that they should illegally reverse Biden’s win. Giuliani’s team showed a video they claim showed ballot-counting improprieties after polls closed, including accusations of Freeman and Moss handling a suitcase of fraudulent or stolen ballots that tilted the election for Biden.
Georgia’s top law enforcement agency and State Election Board investigations confirmed that the suitcases were county-issued ballot boxes that were regularly used to store ballots in Fulton elections.
As some Trump loyalists misplaced blame for Trump’s election defeat, they resorted to death threats against election workers like Freeman and Moss as well as against Georgia GOP officials, state election staff and family members.
Freeman and Moss appeared last year as witnesses as a U.S. House committee held hearings into the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the nation’s Capitol building.
Giuliani had publicized a video of Moss and Freeman counting votes in Atlanta. He and Trump said the video showed the pair involved in voter fraud, which was not true.
Giuliani mentioned Moss and Freeman by name at a December 2020 U.S. Senate hearing.
In the following months, Trump supporters harassed Moss and Freeman, making threats and even on one occasion breaking into Moss’s grandmother’s home looking to make a “citizen’s arrest.”
Freeman said the FBI told her she had to leave her home for safety. She stayed away from her home for two months to escape the danger, she told the House panel in a taped deposition.
“It was horrible,” she said.
Moss, who is Black, also testified that she had loved her job and been proud of her work in elections because of the significance voting rights held for people in her family and others who had not always enjoyed that right.
Moss quit her job, she told the panel. In fact, every full-time worker in the video Giuliani publicized had since left the office, she said.
According to Atlanta lawyer Peter Canfield, Giuliani’s limited acknowledgment of false and defamatory statements against the Fulton elected workers is being used to protect him from the brunt of civil liability. A federal judge could soon rule on whether Giuliani should be punished for misconduct.
Giuliani isn’t making a major concession in the filing since his accusations against Freeman and Moss have long been proven to be objectively false, Canfield said.
This is more of a legal maneuver by Giuliani to try to avoid being sanctioned by a U.S. District Court for not providing plaintiffs’ attorneys with a variety of records related to the civil proceeding. Giuliani’s attorneys will argue that his comments about Moss and Freemen were opinions rather than statements of fact subject to liability and that the lawsuit’s claims exceed the statute of limitations, he said.
“The real issue is whether he knew whether they were false when he made them or should’ve done more to investigate them before he repeated them,” Canfield said Wednesday.
Giuliani is also a potential target in a sweeping Georgia 2020 election interference probe that could lead to high-profile criminal indictments being handed down in August in Fulton County Superior Court. Among the potential targets of Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation are Trump, Giuliani, state Republican Party officials, and other supporters of Trump’s bid to overturn Biden’s election win.
Giuliani’s latest defamation case filing likely won’t have any impact on the Fulton case, Canfield said.
“I don’t think this gives (Fulton) prosecutors anything useful in any criminal proceeding against Giuliani, if any are to come,’” he added. “It’s a very limited statement he’s making here.”
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