Legal scholar: Key part of Trump indictment seeks "justice" for Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss

"We must never forget that Trump's alleged crimes were not victimless crimes," warned attorney Sherrilyn Ifill

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published August 15, 2023 3:39PM (EDT)

Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss (L), former Georgia election worker, is comforted by her mother Ruby Freeman (R) as Moss testifies during the fourth hearing on the January 6th investigation in the Cannon House Office Building on June 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss (L), former Georgia election worker, is comforted by her mother Ruby Freeman (R) as Moss testifies during the fourth hearing on the January 6th investigation in the Cannon House Office Building on June 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

A significant part of the indictment against former President Donald Trump and 18 co-conspirators focuses on the harassment campaign targeting Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman.

The indictment charges Trump and others with repeatedly and falsely accusing Freeman of committing election fraud, with some going as far as traveling to Freeman's home, interacting with her neighbors and calling her over the phone. Among the individuals charged were former Kanye West publicist Trevian Kutti, Willies Lewi Floyd III of "Black Voices for Trump," and Illinois pastor Stephen C. Lee, who allegedly conspired to solicit a false statement from Freeman about what happened during the vote count.

"In furtherance of the scheme, members of the enterprise traveled from out of state to harass Freeman, intimidate her, and solicit her to falsely confess to election crimes that she did not commit," the indictment reads. 

The TrumpWorld allegations against Freeman originated from a video of her and her daughter, Wandrea "Shaye" Moss, another election worker, that circulated widely across right-wing media. Many members of the GOP accused the two women of engaging in election crimes, with former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani accusing Freeman and others of handing out USB drives at Atlanta's State Farm Arena, where votes were being counted. Last month, Giuliani conceded that the statements he made about Freeman and Moss were false, saying that he "does not contest" the fraudulence of his accusations, which "carry meaning that is defamatory." 

Trump personally took aim at the pair during his infamous phone call with Brad Raffensperger days before the Capitol insurrection, in which he asked the Georgia Secretary of State to "find 11,780 votes" to subvert Joe Biden's win. During the call, the ex-president described Freeman as a "professional vote scammer and hustler." This past January, Trump launched another attack on Freeman on his Truth Social, writing, "What will the Great State of Georgia do with the Ruby Freeman MESS?"

During her testimony before the House committee investigating Jan 6, Freeman stated that her experience was "horrible."

"I felt homeless," Freeman said. "I can't believe this person [Trump] has caused this much damage to me and my family, to have to leave my home. There is nowhere I feel safe, nowhere," she continued. "Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American — not to target one. But he targeted me — Lady Ruby, a small-business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stood up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic."

Sherrilyn Ifill, the former president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said that the statement was on her mind as she read the indictment.

"We must never forget that Trump's alleged crimes were not victimless crimes. And to the extent that as a former President he continues to target judges and prosecutors, the danger Trump poses has not been neutralized," she tweeted.

Moss, who also testified, said that she faced an onslaught of death threats and racist attacks in the wake of the 2020 election. She alleged that she was told "that I'll be in jail with my mother and saying things like 'Be glad it's 2020 and not 1920.'"

"I don't want anyone knowing my name," Moss added. "I don't wanna go anywhere with my mom 'cause she might yell my name out over the grocery aisle or something. I don't go to the grocery store at all. I haven't been anywhere.

"I second-guess everything that I do," she continued. "It's affected my life in a major way, in every way, all because of lies for me doing my job, same thing I've been doing forever."

In July, Freeman and Moss were formally cleared of any wrongdoing after Georgia officials conducted a probe into Trump and his allies' allegations, determining that the claims were "false and unsubstantiated." 

"We are glad the state election board finally put this issue to rest," Raffensperger said in a statement. "False claims and knowingly false allegations made against these election workers have done tremendous harm. Election workers deserve our praise for being on the front lines."

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In January, President Biden awarded Freeman and Moss with the Presidential Citizens Medal, observing how the two women "found the courage to testify openly and honestly for the — to the whole country and the world about their experience to set the record straight about the lies and defend the integrity of our elections."

"Ruby and Shaye, you don't deserve what happened to you," Biden continued. "But you do deserve the nation's eternal thanks for showing the dignity and grace of We the People."

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In many ways, UCLA election law expert Rick Hasen wrote in an op-ed in Slate, "the Georgia complaint is about getting justice for Freeman and Moss," noting that the indictment more broadly "vindicates the interest of all Black voters in Georgia and across the country."

Trump's unfounded complaints about voter fraud were routinely targeted at cities with large Black populations, at one point specifically targeting Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. Though race plays a factor in special counsel Jack Smith's election interference indictment, accusing Trump of seeking to deprive voters of the right to vote under the post-Civil War Ku Klux Klan Act, "race will be front and center in Georgia," Hasen wrote.

"Willis' constant presence in the public eye over the next year will be an important reminder that although Trump may have been unique in his complex racketeering conspiracy to subvert the election, this is hardly the first time Black voters have been targeted for disenfranchisement in Georgia and across the United States," he added. "Part of Willis' job will be to make it that much more difficult to do so the next time around."

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Donald Trump Fani Willis Politics Ruby Freeman Rudy Giuliani Shaye Moss