(Bloomberg) -- A judge found Rudy Giuliani liable for defaming two 2020 Georgia election workers with false voter fraud conspiracies. Now the Donald Trump ally faces a trial on whether he’ll have to pay damages — and if so, how much.
Most Read from Bloomberg
A federal judge in Washington on Wednesday entered a judgment against the former New York City mayor on civil claims of defamation, emotional distress, and conspiracy and asked both sides to propose trial dates to assess damages. US District Judge Beryl Howell wrote that the court loss was a sanction for “willful shirking” of obligations to turn over evidence. She also ordered Giuliani and his businesses to pay the victims more than $132,000 in legal fees.
Giuliani’s finances will feature prominently in the trial over what he’ll owe election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, who faced harassment and violent threats over his allegations that they tampered with ballot counting. His recent money troubles have been documented in and out of court, amid his indictment on criminal charges in connection with the efforts of Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
Howell said he has until Sept. 20 to give the plaintiffs an array of financial information, including income, tax returns, net worth, bank statements, and divorce settlement records. She also ordered both sides to propose three dates between November and February for the damages trial.
Freeman and Moss haven’t put a specific damages demand in court filings so far. In a statement, they called Howell’s opinion “yet another neutral finding that has confirmed what we have known all along: that there was never any truth to any of the accusations about us and that we did nothing wrong.”
Read More: Giuliani Concedes Making Fake Claims About Election Workers
Ted Goodman, an adviser to Giuliani who also serves as a spokesperson, said in a statement that the ruling was “a prime example of the weaponization of our justice system, where the process is the punishment.” In court filings, Giuliani had said would concede the case but indicated he’ll fight damages and might appeal on the grounds that he was engaging in constitutionally protected speech.
The court loss comes as Giuliani faces state charges in Georgia that he joined a criminal enterprise with Trump and 17 others to overturn the 2020 election results. The indictment covers some of the identical conduct he was found civilly liable for: false allegations that Freeman and Moss engaged in fraud. He has vowed to fight the criminal case.
A civil judgment can’t be used as proof of guilt in a criminal case. There could be limited circumstances where the government argues to reference it at trial, according to former federal prosecutors, and Giuliani would get a chance to object, putting it to the judge to decide.
As another sanction, the jurors deciding damages will get a “mandatory“ instruction that they must infer Giuliani is hiding information about his assets to “artificially” deflate his net worth. If he turns over the financial information he’s supposed to in September, though, Howell said she’d consider making that a “permissive“ instruction — that the jurors will be told they can infer that.
The judge gave a few nods to Giuliani’s other legal troubles. She noted his claim that “financial difficulties” prevented him from paying the plaintiffs’ attorney fees, but cited a news report that he’d flown on a private plane to Atlanta to surrender on the state charges. She compared his failure to preserve and produce documents in the civil case to the broader election interference charges.
“Just as taking shortcuts to win an election carries risks — even potential criminal liability — bypassing the discovery process carries serious sanctions,” she wrote.
Howell blasted Giuliani for paying “lip service” to his duty to turn over evidence and “donning a cloak of victimization.” When Giuliani offered to give up fighting the case, his attempt at conceding the allegations with “carve-outs and reservations” held “more holes than Swiss cheese,” the judge found.
She made clear that she was entering judgment against Giuliani as a sanction, and not based on his offered concessions.
“Giuliani would like to have his proverbial cake and eat it too,” Howell wrote.
Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.