Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Prosecutors say the head of Bob Ehrlich’s 2010 campaign for governor used illegal tactics to try to win the election against Gov. Martin O’ Malley. Now that Ehrlich aide is defending himself in a Baltimore courtroom.
Derek Valcourt has the latest on the robocall trial.
The jury has been seated and will now have to decide whether those robocalls amounted to free speech or dirty politics.
When phones started ringing on Election Night with robocalls to 112,000 registered voters, Baltimore judge Lawrence Fletcher Hill’s phone was one of them. His wife answered and heard this:
“Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful. We’re OK. Relax. Everything is fine. Only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight.”
But the judge said that wouldn’t stop him from conducting a fair trial for Bob Ehrlich’s campaign manager Paul Schurick, who now faces criminal charges that he and campaign consultant Julius Henson conspired to break election laws with those robocalls, attempted to suppress African-American voter turnout and failed to identify who was behind the calls as required.
Schurick is also charged with obstruction of justice for withholding information sought by investigators.
His attorneys insist he’s innocent.
“When the jury hears all of the facts, he will be found not guilty and exonerated,” said Dwight Pettit, defense attorney.
The jury may see some familiar faces testify. Possible witnesses include former governors Bob Ehrlich, Marvin Mandel, former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, City Court Clerk Frank Conaway and Congressman Elijah Cummings, who taped his own robocall Election Night urging people to vote after he heard about the Ehrlich campaign robocall. He talked to WJZ about the controversy after the election.
“The person responsible for the actions should be brought to justice,” he said.
Defense attorneys want to know what and how Cummings learned Election Night about the campaign robocalls.
The trial is expected to last a week. Opening arguments should begin Tuesday.
Schurick faces the possibility of prison time and fines if convicted.
Henson is scheduled for his trial Feb. 6.