The Giuliani verdict [corrected]

Association with President Trump has led to the ruination of many of his supporters. Rudy Giuliani seems to me foremost among them, but I may be shortchanging some other prominent members of his team. These supporters of President Trump are nevertheless adults responsible for their own actions.

In my opinion, the country would nevertheless have been better served by their counseling Trump to take another path than the one he chose after he lost the 2020 election. I thought Trump needed an intervention, not that it would have made a difference.

Before yesterday I hadn’t followed the defamation case brought against Giuliani by mother and daughter Georgia campaign workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss in Washington, D.C. federal district court. Giuliani suffered the misfortune of drawing Beryl Howell as the presiding judge in the case.

Trying to understand the procedural background of yesterday’s verdict, I find the current stories difficult to follow. As I understand it, Judge Howell previously held Giuliani liable on the defamation claim as a result of failure to provide discovery in an earlier stage of the proceedings.

The July AP story quotes Giuliani conceding the merits of the defamation claim as well. The AP story links to the stipulation filed by Giuliani with the court at the time. The stipulation reserves possible First Amendment defenses to liability for his defamatory statements.

In the just-concluded damages phase of the trial, the jury returned yesterday with a combined award of $75 million in punitive damages against Giuliani. The jury also awarded compensatory damages of $16.2 million to Ms. Freeman and $16.9 million to Ms. Moss, as well as $20 million to each of them for emotional suffering. The verdict seems a tad excessive.

Giuliani alleged that the abuse suffered by the ladies was not his fault. I take it that was a question of fact submitted to the jury.

Giuliani himself is unrepentant. He kept up his abuse of the ladies during the damages phase of the trial. The New York Times quotes Giuliani speaking after the verdict was returned. “I don’t regret a damn thing,” he said outside the courthouse, suggesting that he would appeal and that he stood by his assertions about the two women.

The New York Post quotes the closing argument made by Giuliani’s attorney to the jury regarding the amount of damages. “If you award them what they are asking for, it will be the end of Mr. Giuliani,” he said.

Speaking to the New York Post after the verdict was returned, Giuliani commented, “Do I have $43 million? No. Am I going to fight this case until I die? Yeah. I’d rather die poor with my principles than cave in to a destruction of my country that I love so much.”

Judge Howell could reduce the damages awarded by the jury. Unless she does so and unless relieved of the obligation by the Court of Appeals, Giuliani would have to post a supersedeas bond securing payment of the judgment to be entered in order to take an appeal [see correction below]. He probably knows that. I doubt that he’ll be able to do so. Even so, the ladies would be well advised not to spend their prospective recovery yet.

As mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani’s law enforcement reforms saved many lives. On 9/11, he proved to be a leader of unusual courage as well. The late, great Fred Siegel wrote the book on him. What a sorry disgrace of a man I once thought to be the finest public servant in the United States.

CORRECTION: I erred in stating that Giuliani can’t take an appeal without filing a supersedeas bond. He needs to post a bond to stay collection proceedings pending appeal.

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