Consultant Gets Jail Time in Maryland Robocalls Case
Prosecutors said calls were aimed at keeping Black voters from the polls
Sarah Brumfield The Associated Press
June 14, 2012BALTIMORE (AP) -- A campaign consultant was led out of a courtroom in handcuffs Wednesday after he was sentenced to 60 days in jail for conspiring to send Election Day robocalls that prosecutors said were aimed at keeping Black voters from the polls.
In comments before the sentence was handed down, Julius Henson, who worked for former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich's campaign during his 2010 rematch with Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, called his prosecutions in state and federal court a ``witch-hunt.''
``This has not been fair,'' Henson told Circuit Judge Emanuel Brown. ``This has not been justice.''
Prosecutors originally asked for a sentence similar to the home detention and community service Henson's co-conspirator received, but after a television interview in which Henson blamed others and implied he was targeted because he is Black aired Tuesday night, they asked for a more stringent punishment.
Brown told Henson he had used his creative talents to undermine the electoral process and didn't appear to believe that he had committed a crime.
``There seems to be a culture that suggests anything goes in politics,'' Brown said, noting that during the trial the defense had proffered the testimony of another consultant who would say he would have done the same thing Henson did. ``That culture must change.''
A Baltimore jury convicted Henson of conspiring with Ehrlich campaign manager Paul Schurick to send the robocalls without an authority line that told listeners who was sending the message, but acquitted him of three other charges. However, Henson, his company and a company employee were also ordered in related federal case to pay the state more than $1 million for Telephone Consumer Protection Act violations.
Schurick was convicted of four counts including conspiracy and election fraud in a separate trial last year. He received a one-year suspended sentence, 30 days of home detention and 500 hours of community service.
Henson testified that the calls, which told listeners to ``relax'' because O'Malley had won, were a counterintuitive attempt to motivate voters in the final hours of the election. He was acquitted of three charges including influencing or attempting to influence a voter's decision whether to go to the polls through the use of fraud, conspiring with Ehrlich campaign manager Paul Schurick to do the same and publishing campaign material without an authority line.
Schurick was convicted of four counts including conspiracy and election fraud in a separate trial last year. He received a one-year suspended sentence and 30 days of home detention.
The calls were made in the hours before polls closed on Election Day to about 110,000 Democratic voters in Baltimore and Prince George's County, two jurisdictions with high percentages of Black voters.
The call said: ``Hello. I'm calling to let everyone know that Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct and we took it back. We're okay. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you.''
Henson testified that he was hired to help the campaign with outreach to the African-American community and he drafted the proposal called the ``Schurick Doctrine'' after conversations with the campaign manager.