Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A lawyer for two former Georgia election workers told members of a jury in federal court on Thursday that they should send a message in considering how much Rudolph W. Giuliani should have to pay for spreading defamatory lies about them as part of his effort three years ago to keep President Donald J. Trump in office.

“Send it to Mr. Giuliani,” the lawyer, Michael J. Gottlieb, said in his closing argument. “Send it to any other powerful figure with a platform and an audience who is considering whether they will take the chance to seek profit and fame by assassinating the moral character of ordinary people.”

The election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, who were counting ballots at State Farm Arena in Fulton County, Ga., on Nov. 3, 2020, are asking for at least $24 million each from Mr. Giuliani for baselessly accusing them of cheating Mr. Trump out of votes and broadcasting that lie to millions of followers on social media.

Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington has already found that Mr. Giuliani, who served as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and helped lead the effort to overturn the 2020 election result, defamed the women. The jury in the civil trial is only being asked to determine what damages Mr. Giuliani should pay. The jurors adjourned on Thursday afternoon and were set to pick up their deliberations on Friday.

In a last-minute decision, Mr. Giuliani decided not to testify as planned on Thursday. His lawyer and Judge Howell had expressed concerns for days that Mr. Giuliani would repeat his unfounded claims of election fraud from the stand, as he did on Monday outside the courthouse when he attacked Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss again.

Mr. Giuliani’s lawyer, Joseph Sibley IV, also asked the jury to send a message, by not landing on a “catastrophic” dollar figure.

“I’m asking you to be reasonable and be just,” Mr. Sibley said.

Mr. Sibley said that Mr. Giuliani has admitted that he was wrong, but that the torrent of abuse directed at Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss after his statements about them was not entirely his fault.

Mr. Sibley argued that Mr. Giuliani did not himself say all of the horrible and racist things or encourage violence against the women, and that no amount of money could realistically repair the women’s reputations in the eyes of the people who believe the lies. Mr. Giuliani, he said, knows that defamation is wrong, because he believes he has been defamed by President Biden.

Mr. Sibley asked jurors to remember Mr. Giuliani by the reputation he had 20 years ago, after serving as mayor of New York City and as a federal prosecutor who took down the mob.

“Rudy Giuliani shouldn’t be defined by what’s happened in recent times,” Mr. Sibley said. “This is a man who did great things.”

During the trial, Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss, who are mother and daughter, delivered emotional testimony about how the falsehoods spread by Mr. Giuliani ruined their lives.

They told the jury they had received hundreds of threatening and racist messages from people who believed Mr. Giuliani’s assertion, causing them to lose their livelihoods, move out of their homes and suffer emotional distress.

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