Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The man at the center of the 2010 election robocall controversy prepares to fight for his freedom Tuesday. That’s when the election fraud trial gets underway for political operative Julius Henson.
Derek Valcourt has more on the allegations and Henson’s defense.
Henson maintains his innocence, saying he’s protected by freedom of speech.
It was little more than a year ago when phones were ringing on election night. Robocalls from the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich went to 112,000 registered Democrats in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County hinting there was no need to go vote.
“I’m calling to let everyone know that Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful. We’re OK. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight,” the call said.
“Nothing in that call was not true,” Henson said.
Political consultant Julius Henson admits he was behind the ad, hired by the Ehrlich campaign to the tune of $125,000. But he disputes allegations by the state prosecutor’s office that the ads violated election laws, amounted to voter suppression and failed to disclose who paid for the ads as required.
“The state prosecutors and the attorney general of the United States should read the Constitution. The speech clause in the Constitution says that political speech is free and they cannot control the content,” Henson said.
Legal expert Byron Warnken says Henson’s First Amendment argument may not stand up to the state prosecutor’s case.
“It seems to me from what I’ve read that they do have pretty strong evidence that these robocalls were for the purpose of dissuading people from exercising their right to vote so I don’t think you have a First Amendment right to that,” Warnken said.
If convicted on all the charges, Henson faces the possibility of up to 17 years in prison.
Ehrlich campaign manager Paul Schurick is scheduled for trial later this month.