By Lindsay Whitehurst and Alanna Durkin Richer
Scared for her life after Rudy Giuliani and other Donald Trump allies falsely accused her of fraud, Georgia election worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss told jurors Tuesday she seldom leaves her home, suffers from panic attacks and battles nightmares brought on by a barrage of threatening and racist messages.
Years later, she still lives in fear that the lies will get her killed, she said.
Wandrea “Shaye” Moss took the witness stand on the second day of the defamation trial that will determine how much the former New York City mayor will have to pay Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, for spreading a conspiracy theory that they rigged the state's 2020 election results. Moss sobbed as she testified that her life was turned upside down by the accusations, though they were quickly debunked by state officials.
Moss' attorneys displayed a few of the graphic messages accusing her of treason and more that she received after Giuliani in December 2020 falsely accused workers at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta of tampering with ballots. Moss told jurors that she was a bubbly, outgoing person before the conspiracy theories began, but since then she's been stuck in a lonely cycle of crying and nightmares.
“I’m most scared of my son finding me and or my mom hanging in front of our house on a tree having to get news at school that his mom was killed,” the 39-year-old said. At one point in January 2021, she said, someone came to her grandmother's door threatening to make a “citizen arrest.”
Moss and her mother are seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from Giuliani in the defamation case at the same time he's preparing to defend himself against criminal charges in a separate case in Georgia. Giuliani has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case that accuses him and others of conspiring to overturn Donald Trump's 2020 election loss in the state. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The judge overseeing the defamation case has already found Giuliani liable, and Giuliani has acknowledged in court that he made public comments falsely claiming Freeman and Moss committed fraud while counting ballots. The only issue remaining in the trial is the amount of damages Giuliani will have to pay the women.
The women’s lawyers estimated that reputational damages could reach $47 million, and suggested emotional and punitive damages on top of that could be “tens of millions.” Giuliani’s lawyer has said any award should be much less.
Moss, who also testified before the U.S. House Committee that investigated the Capitol attack, described being brought into her director's office after Giuliani made the claims during a hearing before Georgia lawmakers. Moss didn't have any idea that lies about them were being spread and thought her director wanted to recognize her for her election work or give her a promised promotion, she told jurors. Instead the mood in the room was somber, and soon she learned the real reason for the meeting.
“I am shown these videos, these lies, everything that had been going on that I had no clue about,” Moss said.
Moss said she went home that night, scared and confused, and could only watch as the angry messages poured in. She got her long blonde hair cut off and dyed the next day, trying to reclaim some of her anonymity. Shown a video in court of Giuliani speaking on his online show about a false suitcase ballot conspiracy, she said: “How can someone with so much power go public and talk about things that he obviously has no clue about? It just obvious that it’s lies."
Her 14-year-old son was using her cellphone as a hotspot to attend online classes when the harassment began in December 2020, since she couldn’t afford internet at home, she said. Moss said people found her number online and started sending a deluge of calls and messages, severing the connection to his virtual classes just as finals were coming up.
Giuliani's lawyer, Joseph Sibley, argues there is little evidence Giuliani was directly responsible for the threats and harassment. He has also suggested that the case could financially ruin his client, saying the women are seeking the “civil equivalent of the death penalty.”
Giuliani is expected to testify in the trial, even though anything he says on the witness stand may be used against him in the criminal case.
Moss' testimony came hours after the judge scolded Giuliani for comments made outside the federal courthouse in Washington on Monday in which he insisted his claims about the women were true.
“When I testify, the whole story will be definitively clear that what I said was true, and that, whatever happened to them—which is unfortunate about other people overreacting—everything I said about them is true," Giuliani told reporters.
Giuliani added that Moss and Freeman were “engaged in changing votes.” When a reporter pushed back, saying there was no proof of that, Giuliani replied: “You’re damn right there is ... Stay tuned.”
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell warned Giuliani's lawyer that his client's remarks amounted to “defamatory statements about them yet again.” The judge was incredulous, asking Giuliani’s lawyer about the contradiction of his opening statements calling Freeman and Moss “good people” but then the former mayor repeating unfounded allegations of voter fraud.
“How are we supposed to reconcile that?" she asked the lawyer.
Sibley, conceded her point and told the judge he discussed the comments with his client, but added: “I can't control everything he does." He also argued that the mayor’s age and health concerns make long days in court challenging.
Richer reported from Boston.