A top campaign aide and a political operative to former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. during his bid to retake the governor’s mansion last year pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that they sought to use robo-calls on Election Day to suppress turnout among the state’s black voters.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill scheduled a Sept. 22 trial for Ehrlich’s defacto campaign manager, Paul Schurick, and controversial political consultant, Julius Henson. The two face multiple counts of election law violations stemming from an automated call that was placed to tens of thousands of Democrats in predominantly black districts of Baltimore and Prince George’s County.
According to the state prosecutor’s office, the calls were intended to trick voters into thinking that even though the polls were still open there was no reason to vote because the election had already been called in favor of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
Outside the courtroom, Henson, 62, said he was “100 percent” confident that a jury would find him innocent, and he suggested the indictments sought by State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt, an O’Malley appointee, and a concurrent civil case being pursued by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), who is expected to run for governor in three years, were politically motivated.
Without explaining his rationale, Henson also lumped Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) into those he said were pushing his prosecution.
“This is Cardin, O’Malley,” Henson said. “I recommend the state prosecutor read the Constitution because free speech is a protected class, especially political speech. No matter the style, it cannot be curtailed.”
Henson, who has a history of using brash campaign tactics, said last fall that the calls were intended to be “counterintuitive” and to motivate Ehrlich supporters to go out and vote.