Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani petitioned for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday, just one day after a federal judge allowed two election workers who he defamed to attempt to immediately enforce a $146 million judgment.
Giuliani, a longtime personal attorney to former President Donald Trump, filed the 24-page petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
The debts listed in the petition prominently features the $148 million defamation judgment a federal jury awarded on Friday to Georgia election workers Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, which was later reduced by $2 million. It also lists various other lawsuits filed against Giuliani as potential future debts, including those filed against him by the president’s son Hunter Biden, his former employee Noelle Dunphy, and voting machine companies Smartmatic and Dominion.
Those lawsuit, plus another filed by Dominion’s staffer Eric Coomer, remain pending, and damages have not yet been awarded.
“The filing should be a surprise to no one. No person could have reasonably believed that Mayor Rudy Giuliani would be able to pay such a high punitive amount,” his political advisor Ted Goodman said in a statement. “Chapter 11 will afford Mayor Giuliani the opportunity and time to pursue an appeal, while providing transparency for his finances under the supervision of the bankruptcy court, to ensure all creditors are treated equally and fairly throughout the process.”
Moss and Freeman’s attorney Michael J. Gottlieb predicted the former mayor’s gambit would fail.
“This maneuver is unsurprising, and it will not succeed in discharging Mr. Giuliani’s debt to Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss,” Gottlieb said in a statement.
Most of Giuliani’s awarded and potential litigation debts stem from his false claims of fraud during the 2020 presidential election. Giuliani falsely claimed that surveillance footage caught Freeman and Moss engaging in election fraud by carrying boxes of phony ballots. He also accused Moss of handing her mother Freeman a “USB drive” full of votes, supposedly caught on tape. Moss testified that the object she passed to her mom was a “ginger mint,” in emotional testimony before the Jan. 6 Committee.
Federal and local authorities cleared Moss and Freeman of wrongdoing, but both of them reported being “terrorized” by racist death threats by Trump supporters who believed the lies were true. Freeman said she was forced to flee her home.
In August, Giuliani lost the defamation case by failing to turn over evidence to Moss and Freeman, and a trial to determine the amount of damages he owed took place in December, where both of the women recounted the threats against them.
Under Section 523(a)(6) of the Bankruptcy Code, a Chapter 11 bankruptcy “does not discharge a debtor from any debt… for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity.”
“The courts have routinely held that defamation damages are excluded from discharge under this section,” former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner, who now practices media law for Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC, told The Messenger.
That principle denied protection in a high-profile case similar to Giuliani’s in the recent past.
When conspiracy theorist Alex Jones sought bankruptcy protection to avoid paying more than $1.1 billion to Sandy Hook families he defamed, a Texas judge found he was not entitled to such protection because Chapter 11 does not protect “willful and malicious” conduct.
In addition to election-related defamation cases, Giuliani also faces a sexual abuse lawsuit filed against him by Dunphy and allegations that the former mayor’s accessing Hunter Biden’s computer data amounted to an illegal hacking campaign.