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Rudy Giuliani skips hearing in election worker defamation case, drawing judge's ire

“How could you have missed that?" a judge asked Giuliani's lawyer. "Or did you miss it?”
Image: Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporters
Rudy Giuliani in New York on Aug. 23.Seth Wenig / AP file

WASHINGTON — Rudy Giuliani skipped out on a court hearing Tuesday ahead of his defamation trial, drawing the ire of a federal judge.

A pretrial hearing was held in Washington on Tuesday ahead of next week's jury trial to determine how much Giuliani will have to pay in damages to Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea "Shaye" Moss, two Georgia election worker he was found liable for defaming.

U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell began the hearing by asking the attorneys on each side to state their names and specify who was at their tables. Giuliani attorney Joseph Sibley, who was alone at the defendant's table, introduced himself before the judge asked him where Giuliani was.

When Sibley replied that Giuliani was in New York, the judge reminded him that her standing order instructed all counsel and parties to be in attendance for the hearing.

“How could you have missed that? Or did you miss it?” Howell asked Sibley, saying it “sets the tone, doesn’t it, for the whole case.”

Sibley told the judge he misread the order and took the blame for Giuliani's absence. Asked by Howell whether he was “falling on his sword” for Giuliani, Sibley replied that he was not.

“I should have been aware," Sibley said. "It’s my fault.”

Howell later told Sibley he must submit in writing by noon Wednesday that Giuliani does not plan to object to any of the decisions reached at the pretrial conference.

Giuliani's defamation trial is set to begin Monday with jury selection. Howell has already found that Giuliani is “civilly liable on plaintiffs’ defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and punitive damage claims” because of his “willful discovery misconduct” and his purposeful “shirking of his discovery obligations.”

Jurors will decide the financial penalty.

Giuliani previously admitted he made "false" statements about Freeman and Moss, who were election workers in Georgia. Both women told the House Jan. 6 committee that the campaign against them had a devastating impact on their lives. They are seeking $15.5 million to $43 million.