Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The prosecution continues to build its case against one of the men who ran former Governor Bob Ehrlich’s campaign last year.
Derek Valcourt reports the prosecution is wrapping up its case.
The voice of a controversial Election Night robocall took the stand Wednesday morning. Rhonda Russell is an employee for Julius Henson, who was Ehrlich’s campaign consultant.
“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.”
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.
The robocall did not contain the legally required disclosure 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 on Wednesday, Russell said it was Henson who told her not to put the authority line at the end of the message. Russell also said it was her fault the messages just went to Democrats. She said she did not have access to the lists of Republicans and Independents and she was “lazy” sending the robocall out.
She says the robocalls were intended to be “counter-intuitive.”
“The call was literally meant to stimulate voters that would not have been in support of O’Malley or the Democratic administration. This would stimulate the voters and say, ‘Hey, my vote was going for Ehrlich. He’s down and out, I’m going to go out and vote for Ehrlich after I heard this call.’ So that’s the motivation of counter-intuitivity.”
Schurick’s defense attorneys also have told jurors those robocalls were reverse psychology intended to get voters to rush right out and vote for Ehrlich before the polls closed.
Schurick’s lead defense attorney Dwight Pettit blamed 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.
Former Governor Ehrlich and Congressman Elijah Cummings are also expected to testify in the case.
Campaign consultant Julius Henson is expected to go on trial Feb. 6.