Washington — Jury selection has been completed in the high-profile defamation lawsuit against former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, tied to his alleged efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
A jury of eight Washington, D.C., residents was selected from a group of over a dozen, including an Al Jazeera journalist and one person who sells souvenir hemp seeds. Three men and five women will be sitting on the jury. One is a longtime U.S. Forest Service employee; another is a cost analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency; and yet another is an accountant for the Girl Scouts.
The former New York City mayor was sued by two former Fulton County, Georgia, election workers, Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea ArShaye "Shaye" Moss. They alleged Giuliani mounted a smear campaign against them by repeatedly falsely accusing them of committing election fraud to change the outcome of the 2020 election in their state. They're seeking from $15.5 million to $43 million for damages from Giuliani, according to recent court filings, but it's not clear yet what the jury will award them.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell already found earlier this year that Giuliani wasof defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. The jury trial that began Monday will determine the damages to be awarded to Freeman and Moss.
The two election workers were catapulted into the public eye after Giuliani posted video of the two processing ballots on election night at State Farm Arena in Atlanta and claimed it showed they were engaged in a fake ballot processing scheme.
In court Monday, attorneys for Freeman and Moss described the emotional, psychological and lasting harm the two have suffered as a result of both Giuliani's conduct and the ramifications of his followers' actions, and they urged the jury to award the mother and daughter compensatory and punitive damages.
"What's in a name? Power. Purpose. Pride," attorney Von Dubose said in opening statements. "This case is about how Mr. Giuliani and his co-conspirators took these folks' good names."
The campaign to smear his clients, Debose said, began on Dec. 3, 2020, after Giuliani and his co-conspirators allegedly spread lies about Freeman and Moss, falsely claiming to millions of social media followers that the two election workers were stuffing ballots and using a USB device to rig voting machines.
What followed was a barrage of death threats, racist language and even late-night visits to Freeman's Georgia home. Some people, Dubose said, even called for Freeman and Moss to hang from trees. He said Freeman was forced to sell her home, and Moss had trouble finding work as a result of the onslaught.
The newly selected jurors saw videos and heard recordings of Giuliani and former President Donald Trump — who is not a defendant in this case — discussing the plaintiffs and spreading baseless rumors about their election-night conduct.
"What you will not see in this case is any video that shows my clients passing around a USB drive or inserting one into any voting machines," Dubose told the jury. "You won't see it because it doesn't exist."
Outlining their demands for millions of dollars in financial awards, Freeman and Moss' attorney Mike Gottlieb detailed the expert testimony that jurors will hear during the trial, on lost wages, relocation costs and reputational harm.
"Here, a reputation has been shattered, and that harm endures," Gottlieb said. "Consider a verdict that will send a message."
Howell instructed the jury to consider many of the facts in the case as true, including that Giuliani spread the lies about Freeman and Moss with "malice" and had no legal right to do so.
The only question the jury had to answer, Howell said, was how much — if any — Giuliani had to pay the mother and daughter.
Giuliani's defense attorney, Joseph Sibley, sought to distance his client from the actions of those who attacked Freeman and Moss, telling the jury that Giuliani didn't intend for individuals to threaten them and was not mentioned in any of the correspondence.
Sibley said he would not contest the facts of the case because of the court's previous rulings and he conceded that the jury would see lots of evidence of damages.
"At the end of this…I'm gonna ask you to award a number of damages against my client," he said Monday but said the number he will argue for at the end of his trial will be "fair and proportional" for what he said Giuliani did.
Freeman and Moss, Giuliani's attorney argued, were asking for the "civil equivalent of the death penalty," a request he urged the jurors to reject.
In June, after a long investigation, the Georgia Election Board found the "numerous allegations made against the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections, and specifically, two election workers, were false and unsubstantiated." It said "there was no evidence of any type of fraud as alleged."
In an earlier ruling, Howell also ordered Giuliani to reimburse Freeman and Moss for over $89,000 in attorneys' fees and costs related to a request that the court force Giuliani to fulfill his discovery obligations. And Giuliani must ensure his eponymous businesses cover more than $43,000 in attorneys' fees associated with an effort to force Freeman and Moss to respond to requests for documents and depositions.
Giuliani originally faced a July 25 deadline to reimburse the mother and daughter, and as a sanction for failing to repay them by that date, Howell said the jury may be instructed to "infer that [Giuliani] is intentionally trying to hide relevant discovery about his financial assets for the purpose of artificially deflating his net worth" when determining the amount to award Freeman and Moss.
At an earlier stage in the case, Giulianiabout Freeman and Moss when he claimed they engaged in voter fraud during the election, but he maintained that he was engaging in constitutionally protected speech when he leveled the accusations.
Freeman and Moss were featured prominently in the House select committee's investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, telling Congress they've received numerous threats against their lives. They are mentioned in special counsel Jack Smith's 2020 election-related indictment against Trump, in which Giuliani has been identified by CBS News as an unnamed co-conspirator.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis earlier this yearfor their alleged efforts to . Prosecutors claim a Trump associate tried to pressure Freeman into altering her testimony about the election during a state investigation.
Trump and Giuliani have pleaded not guilty to those charges and deny any wrongdoing.
The original lawsuit was also filed against Herring Media, owner of One America News, but those parties settled the claims.
for more features.