A federal jury on Friday ordered Rudolph W. Giuliani to pay two former Georgia election workers more than $148 million for destroying their reputations and causing them extreme emotional distress by spreading baseless lies that they had tried to steal a victory from President Donald J. Trump after the 2020 presidential election.
The award came after Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington had ruled that Mr. Giuliani, who helped lead Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in office after his defeat, had defamed the two workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. The jury in the civil trial had been asked to decide only on the amount of the damages.
Over hours of emotional testimony, Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss described how their lives had been completely upended after Dec. 3, 2020, when Mr. Giuliani first suggested that they had engaged in election fraud to tilt the result against Mr. Trump in Georgia, a critical swing state.
The women, who are Black and are mother and daughter, were soon flooded with expletive-laden phone calls and messages, threats and racist attacks, they testified. People said they should be hanged for treason or lynched; others told them they fantasized about hearing the sound of their necks snapping.
They showed up at Ms. Freeman’s home. They tried to execute a citizen’s arrest of Ms. Moss at her grandmother’s house. They called Ms. Moss’s 14-year-old son’s cellphone so much that it interfered with his virtual classes, and he finished his first year of high school with failing grades.
“This all started with one tweet,” Ms. Freeman told the jury, referring to a social media post from Mr. Giuliani saying, “WATCH: Video footage from Georgia shows suitcases filled with ballots pulled from under a table AFTER supervisors told poll workers to leave room and 4 people stayed behind to keep counting votes.”
Mr. Giuliani did not testify at the trial. His lawyer, Joseph Sibley IV, told the jury that client, the former New York mayor and federal prosecutor, should not be held responsible for abuse directed to Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss by others.
Mr. Sibley said Mr. Giuliani decided not to testify on Thursday partly to avoid putting the women under more emotional strain.
Lawyers for Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss asked the jury to send a message when deciding what Mr. Giuliani should pay.
“Send it to Mr. Giuliani,” one of the lawyers, Michael J. Gottlieb, said in his closing argument on Thursday. “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.”
Mr. Sibley warned that an award of the scale being sought by the women would be the civil equivalent of the death penalty for Mr. Giuliani, who has been struggling financially and is under indictment in Georgia, where a local prosecutor has brought racketeering charges against him, Mr. Trump and others in connection with their efforts to overturn the former president’s election loss there.
But Mr. Giuliani’s net worth is unknown because he refused to comply with routine trial disclosures.