A civil case will go forward that seeks $168 million in damages from a political consultant for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) for his role last year in an election-night robocall scheme that the state’s attorney general and prosecutor have alleged was designed to suppress Democratic voter turnout.
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake on Thursday denied a motion filed by an attorney for consultant Julius Henson that sought dismissal of the case, partially on the grounds that it should be halted while Henson also faces criminal prosecution by the state.
Henson’s attorney, Edward Smith Jr., had accused Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) of grandstanding and trying to score political points with the case.
Blake forcefully denied the motion, writing that “other than unfounded attacks on the motives of the Attorney General, the defendants have not explained why a blanket stay of this action is warranted ... ”
Smith did not immediately return a call seeking comment. His court filing charged said, “It is the very State of Maryland that seeks a criminal penalty against Henson, which seeks to have him put the rope in his own hand to hang himself, via the AG for purposes which can only be described as political,” Smith wrote.
Gansler is widely expected to run for governor in 2014.
Henson, who is African American, had primarily worked for Democrats in majority-black jurisdictions prior to being hired by Ehrlich last year.
Besides Henson, Paul E. Schurick, Ehrlich’s de facto campaign manager, was also indicted last month by a grand jury in Baltimore. The criminal indictments were sought by the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor, which operates independently of Gansler.
The two are scheduled to be arraigned July 18 and a trial could be set within 60 days.
Gansler’s civil case, which could now proceed simultaneously, could prove costly for Henson.
It alleges that Henson and an associate with his company, Universal Elections, placed more than 112,000 calls in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, each of which carries a potential penalty of $500. Gansler said the violations were knowing and willful, and he has asked the U.S District Court for the District of Maryland to triple the damages.
Henson has taken responsibility for the calls, which suggested that O’Malley had won and that voters could “relax” and stay home, although polls were still open.
Henson said the message was “counterintuitive” — that the calls were intended to motivate Ehrlich supporters to vote in the election’s final hours.