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‘Close to broke’ Giuliani can’t dodge discovery in Smartmatic defamation suit

Rudy Giuliani's defense lawyers had not "even come remotely close" to making a case of financial hardship, as the former NYC mayor's unpaid bills accrue, a New York judge said Wednesday.

MANHATTAN (CN) — A New York state judge on Wednesday ordered former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to stop stalling with excuses and produce electronic evidence to the voting technology company Smartmatic within two weeks.

Smartmatic sued Giuliani along with Fox News in February 2021, alleging the network bears financial responsibility for airing false allegations that the company rigged the 2020 presidential election against former President Donald Trump.

Last week, lawyers for Smartmatic asked New York Supreme Justice David Cohen to order Donald Trump’s embattled former attorney to comply with his discovery obligations in the voting technology company’s $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox, claiming the man once dubbed "America's mayor" after the 9/11 terror attacks was offering “excuse after excuse” to avoid turning over documents.

“‘The dog ate my homework.’ ‘I have to wash my hair.’ ‘I can’t go out, I’m sick.’ Since the dawn of time, people have made up excuses to avoid doing things they do not want to do. This is exactly what Giuliani has done here,” Smartmatic wrote in its motion for an order to show cause.

The voting technology company said Giuliani agreed to run searches across the documents only to then refuse to produce the documents because of unsubstantiated claims of financial hardship.

Smartmatic claimed Giuliani had so far only produced two public tweets in response to its sweeping requests for documents about his activities in 2020 and his appearances on Fox News, where he repeatedly claimed the voting company rigged the presidential election results.

“Any further delay in production will severely prejudice Smartmatic’s ability to prosecute its case against Giuliani and the Fox defendants. Smartmatic needs Giuliani’s discovery now and the Court has ample authority to compel Giuliani to produce document,” the motion states (emphasis in original).

Noting his own experience as a judge in New York City Housing Court for seven years, Judge Cohen ruled Wednesday that Giuliani had not made a sufficient showing of financial hardship in the Smartmatic case.

“I know what hardship looks like. You haven’t even come remotely close,” he said.

“I don’t have a bank statement or any affidavit,” the judge told Giuliani’s attorney. “I have no affidavit from your client. … All I really have is your memo of law where you list a litany of things that suggest there may be a hardship.”

Instead of citing bank records or net worth statements, Giuliani’s defense lawyers filed a trio of recent news articles illustrating the former mayor’s financial condition falling apart: “Rudy Giuliani’s Consulting Firm STILL Won’t Pay Its Bills,”  “Report: Rudy Giuliani Is ‘Close to Broke,’ Prepared to Go to Prison,” and “Rudy Giuliani Puts His Upper East Side Apartment Up for Sale”.

“We thought these articles showing that he was close to broke would be sufficient,” Giuliani’s attorney Adam Katz said at Wednesday’s hearing.

“There are a lot of bills that he’s not paying: from a $57,000 phone bill to significantly more," the Russo Law attorney said. "I think that this is very humbling for Mr. Giuliani.”

Judge Cohen was not convinced by the defense's request to ask Smartmatic to foot the $12,000 to $18,000 bill for Giuliani’s electronic discovery vendor, TrustPoint One.

“This is something you agreed to do, this is something you need to do, Mr. Katz,” the judge patiently reprimanded.

In addition to his recent RICO indictment in Georgia state court, Giuliani faces a slew of other civil cases including a suit by a former employee who alleges he coerced her into sex and failed to pay her wages amounting to about $2 million.

The judge in the Smartmatic suit ordered Giuliani to complete discovery production in two weeks, by August 30, or risk an order to a judgment of the company's legal fees arising from the particular motion for an order to show cause.

In April, Fox News agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems nearly $800 million to avert a trial in the voting machine company’s lawsuit that would have exposed how the network promoted lies about the 2020 presidential election.

Fox News has so far been unable to derail the similar defamation suit from Smartmatic seeking $2.7 billion in damages, more than three times what the cable news network agreed to shell out to resolve Dominion’s claims.

Other co-defendants named in Smartmatic’s New York defamation suit are the Fox News Corporation, as well as current and former network hosts Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro, and another lawyer indicted Monday for alleged involvement in Trump’s efforts to reverse the 2020 election result, Sidney Powell.

Separately on Wednesday, Judge Cohen denied Smartmatic's motion to compel Fox to sign an affidavit swearing the company has turned over all recordings of certain company Zoom meetings that occurred around the time of the 2020 election. The judge ruled that the judicial hearing officer who held arguments for the affidavit during closed-doors hearings was not erroneous in his decision to deny such a so-called “Jackson affidavit”.

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