Embattled political consultant Julius Henson plans to suggest in court this week that he is being prosecuted by the Democratic establishment only because he dared to work for Republicans, his attorney said Monday.
Henson is accused of election fraud stemming from a 2010 Election Day “robo-call” that prosecutors say was intended to trick black voters into staying home from the polls. Henson’s attorney alleged Monday that prosecutors would not have brought the case had his client continued to work for Democrats, as he had in previous campaigns.
“It would be extremely naive to believe that this isn’t a political case,” Edward Smith Jr., Henson’s attorney, said in court.
Over the objections of prosecutors, Baltimore Circuit Judge Emanuel Brown said he will allow Smith to assert that defense, which will suggest that the Democratic Party establishment colluded to punish Henson for crossing party lines to work for former governor Robert Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, during his campaign to unseat Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat.
“I should have a clean shot at this,” Smith said. “If I don’t prove it, shame on me.”
The automated call, which Henson has admitted he orchestrated, told voters in Baltimore and Prince George’s County to “relax” and stay home. The call implied that O’Malley had already won his race against Ehrlich, even though the polls were still open.
Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt, who was appointed by O’Malley — as was Brown, the judge — said political parties had nothing to do with decisions to prosecute Henson or Ehrlich’s campaign manager, Paul Schurick, who was convicted last year.
“I answer to nobody,” Davitt said, arguing that Smith’s line of argument was “totally irrelevant” and could turn the case into a “circus.”
Though he ruled to allow the argument, Brown sided with the prosecution on various other motions Monday, rejecting several attempts by Smith to have the case dismissed on technical grounds.
Throughout Monday afternoon, the parties worked to select a jury. They asked prospective jurors, among other questions, whether they are biased against people who wear their hair in dreadlocks, as Henson does.
Opening statements could begin as early as Tuesday. The trial is expected to last eight days.
Schurick was convicted in December of four charges in connection with the robo-call. He was sentenced to 30 days of home detention, 500 hours of community service and four years of probation.