Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ)— Opening arguments have begun in the case against the man who ran Bob Ehrlich’s campaign for governor. He’s one of two men accused in last year’s robocall controversy on Election Night.
Derek Valcourt has more on what happened in court Tuesday.
Prosecutors told jurors the Election Day robocall speaks for itself: a deceptive attempt to trick 112,000 registered Democrats in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County into thinking Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley had already won the gubernatorial election, and there was no need to go vote.
“Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful,” the robocall said. “We’re OK. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight.”
The robocall did not contain the legally required enclosure of who authorized the call, and prosecutors say that’s because Ehrlich’s campaign manager Paul Schurick wanted it that way so that Ehrlich could win the election by suppressing African-American voter turnout.
But Schurick’s defense attorneys told jurors those robocalls were reverse psychology intended to get African-Americans to rush right out and vote for Ehrlich before the polls closed.
Schurick’s lead defense attorney Dwight Pettit blames campaign consultant Juilus Henson for the robocall idea in opening arguments, saying it was Henson’s fault that the robocalls never mentioned where they came from.
“There’s nothing wrong with calling,” Pettit said. “The only thing that you have is a campaign manager accepting the recommendation of a consultant, who is contracted to make those decisions and saying, ‘Hey, if you believe this will help us get our votes out, go ahead. ‘”
Among some of the state’s first witnesses were FBI agents and a robocall experts.
The state’s star witness is Rhonda Russell, the woman whose voice you can hear in those robocalls. Russell was an employee for Henson. She has agreed to testify for the state in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Former Governor Ehrlich and Congressman Elijah Cummings are also expected to testify in the case.