A former election worker in Fulton County, Ga., described in harrowing detail on Tuesday the way her life was turned upside down after Rudy Giuliani falsely accused her and her mother of stealing the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump while processing absentee ballots in Atlanta.
It began on Dec. 4, 2020, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss testified — the day after Giuliani, the former Trump lawyer and mayor of New York City, tweeted surveillance video from a ballot-counting operation in Atlanta and falsely accused “supervisors” of pulling suitcases full of ballots out from under a table after poll workers had gone home.
“That was the day that everything changed, everything in my life changed. … Everything just flipped upside down. … On that day, lies were spread about me and my mom … crazy lies,” Moss said at a federal courthouse in Washington.
Moss described being afraid as she walked three blocks to the parking lot that night, crying as she read messages, including one that called her a “dirty f—ing n—-r b—h,” and scheduling a special trip to the salon to have her hair cut and dyed to change her appearance.
The impact was lasting, too, Moss, 39, said. She started to suffer panic attacks and eventually was diagnosed with acute stress disorder and major depressive disorder. She quit her $39,000-a-year position with the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections in April 2022, despite her love of a job that she compared to winning one of Willie Wonka’s golden tickets.
“I wanted to retire a county worker like my grandmother and make her proud and my mom proud. But I didn’t make it,” Moss said, verging on tears.
Moss’s testimony came during the second day of a damages trial against Giuliani, whom Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, sued for defamation in federal court in the District. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell issued a default judgment against Giuliani in August based on his admissions and failure to turn over evidence in the case. The jury’s task in this week’s trial is limited to establishing what damages Giuliani must pay. Moss and Freeman are seeking up to $47 million in damages.
Throughout Moss’s testimony, Giuliani sat motionless at the defense table, watching. He occasionally took notes with thick colored markers. Moss cried repeatedly and often hung her head as she spoke. She said that in addition to the emotional toll, the lasting impact of the whole experience has been disbelief that someone of Giuliani’s stature could so recklessly destroy her life.
“How can someone with so much power go public and talk about things that he obviously has no clue about?” Moss said. “It’s just obvious that it’s lies, and my reaction is that it’s hurtful, it’s untrue, and it’s unfair.”
The effects, she said, reverberated within her family. Her then-14-year-old son, who received racist texts and phone calls on a cellphone that used to belong to his mom, failed all his final exams that semester, she said. Her grandmother, with whom Moss lived at the time, received pizza deliveries from harassers that she was expected to pay for. One pizza was ordered for a person whose first and last name sounded like the racial epithet that sounds like the n-word. Texts, voice mails and emails accused her of treason and threatened to hang her.
“They kept telling me it was punishable by death and they could hang me and they could hang my mom. That was my concern,” Moss testified. “I was afraid for my life. I literally felt someone would be coming to hang me, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.”
Cross-examining Moss, Giuliani attorney Joseph D. Sibley IV attempted to ask about the vote-counting process on Election Day and whether outsiders or the public might have misinterpreted video or been excluded from observing the Atlanta counting site at State Farm Arena, where the women worked. But her attorneys objected, asserting that Sibley’s questioning sought to establish Giuliani’s statements could have been fair — something Howell said was inadmissible. Giuliani had already conceded liability for false statements.
Sibley suggested that people other than Giuliani were responsible for some of the harm suffered by the two workers. “Do you have any reason to believe Mr. Giuliani intended for people to act on his statements about you and your mother and make racist statements to you?” he asked. He later asked, “Do you have any evidence that Mr. Giuliani intended violent threats to you or your mom as a result of his statements?”
Moss replied that she believed Giuliani assumed and led others to think that because election workers were Black, they must be Democrats. “He doesn’t know who I vote for,” Moss said.
“He wanted people to search our home and arrest us. He didn’t say who should do that, so the world responded to him,” Moss continued. “Trump and his allies including Mr. Giuliani and his crew lit the torch, and they started it, and a whole lot of media spread their lies.”
Howell began the day with an admonishment for Giuliani for making comments that could have freshly defamed two Georgia state elections workers as he left the courthouse the previous day.
In a court filing late Monday, Freeman’s and Moss’s lawyers asked Howell to step in after Giuliani, who wants to testify at some point, repeated to reporters outside the federal courthouse the debunked allegations that the women tampered with the 2020 vote counting process.
“Everything I said about them is true,” Giuliani told reporters, according to an ABC News report cited by Freeman and Moss’s attorneys. He added: “Of course I don’t regret it. … I told the truth. They were engaged in changing votes.”
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Howell scolded Giuliani for the remarks, saying his comments could support another defamation claim and noted that Sibley told jurors in his opening statement that the plaintiffs were good people. Sibley had said, “There’s no question these claimants were harmed. They didn’t deserve what happened to them,” while contesting how much Giuliani was to blame.
Sibley told Howell he was not sure the comments were reconcilable but that he had not been present and could not control all his client’s comments out of court. He also suggested Giuliani’s age might be at issue.
The case has taken “a toll on him,” Sibley said, adding that Giuliani is almost 80 years old.
Howell on Tuesday afternoon granted the request by lawyers for Freeman and Moss to bar Giuliani from arguing in his defense that he hadn’t defamed the workers, after withholding evidence from them in the case.
Freeman and Moss’s attorneys also put on two witnesses who described the Georgia Secretary of State’s investigation and findings that debunked the allegations against Freeman and Moss. They also showed video of sworn statements by Giuliani adviser Bernie Kerik and lawyers Jenna Ellis and Christina Bobb indicating that Giuliani led the Trump legal team’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results that launched an avalanche of misinformation on social media based partly on the false Georgia claims.
Kerik acknowledged that in a last-ditch plan to pressure Republicans in Congress to block the certification of the election results, a strategic communications plan by Giuliani on Dec. 27, 2020, listed top allegations of fraud in several swing states, including the No. 1 claim in Georgia of “Suitcase Gate.”
Kerik admitted tweeting three weeks earlier that Freeman had handed over a USB drive to Moss to flip the vote count. “Now what can possibly be on that thumb drive? What’s so secret that they must act like it’s a drug deal? Or is it just my imagination?”
Moss and Freeman said the mother gave her daughter a ginger mint.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs played video of Ellis repeatedly invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked questions about statements she or Giuliani made concerning whether the 2020 election was stolen. Ellis pleaded guilty in October to illegally conspiring to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia, admitting to making several false statements to state senators, including one alleging misconduct about election workers in State Farm Arena.