Rudy Giuliani is not contesting accusations that he made false statements about two former Fulton County election workers as he seeks to fend off a defamation lawsuit they brought against him, according to a court filing late Tuesday.
As an attorney for former President Donald Trump, Giuliani has repeatedly accused election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss of voting fraud. State and federal investigators quickly determined the allegations were false and said so.
Freeman and Moss endured harassment and death threats because of the allegations and filed defamation lawsuit against Giuliani. In a document filed in that lawsuit on Tuesday, Giuliani said he is not contesting he made false statements about Freeman and Moss.
“The defendant Giuliani, for the purposes of this litigation only, does not contest that, to the extent the statements were statements of fact and otherwise actionable, such actionable statements were false,” Giuliani said in a signed statement attached to the court filing.
But he said the stipulation does not affect his argument that his statements “are constitutionally protected statements or opinion,” and he did not contest that they damaged the plaintiffs.
Atlanta attorney Bruce Brown, who specializes in First Amendment and defamation law, said he’s never seen such a motion – in this case, called a “no lo contendre stipulation” – filed in a civil case. Such a motion, which means “I do not contest it,” is usually filed in a criminal case when someone is entering a plea, he said.
In this case, “it’s different than admitting the allegation,” he added. “It would not be technically correct that he’s admitting he made those statements or that they were defamatory per se. He’s simply not contesting it.”
Atlanta lawyer Peter Canfield, who also specializes in First Amendment law, agreed. ”He’s trying to basically thread the needle,” Canfield said. “He’s saying you can find against me on falsity, but he’s not saying I acted negligently or intentionally. He’s saying he won’t contest it. But the plaintiffs are asking for a lot more than that.”
Ted Goodman, a political advisor to Giuliani, downplayed the significance of the court filing.
“Mayor Rudy Giuliani did not acknowledge that the statements were false but did not contest it in order to move on to the portion of the case that will permit a motion to dismiss,” Goodman said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“This is a legal issue, not a factual issue,” Goodman said. “Those out to smear the mayor are ignoring the fact that this stipulation is designed to get to the legal issues of the case.”