Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A jury is deliberating in the trial against former Governor Bob Ehrlich’s campaign manager. The jury is being asked to decide whether Paul Schurick intentionally tried to suppress African-American voter turnout when he approved a 2010 election night robocall.
Derek Valcourt has more on the decision facing the jury.
It all comes down to the robocall and whether the jury believes the defense’s reverse psychology argument.
When phones rang on Election Night before the polls even closed, some 112,000 registered Democrats in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County heard this: “I’m calling to let anyone 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.”
That call, which was authorized and approved by Ehrlich campaign manager Paul Schurick, was intended to convince Democrats not to go vote, according to the state prosecutor. He told jurors in closing arguments, “There’s only one meaning there. It’s deceptive. It’s trickery. He knew what he did was wrong.”
But defense attorney Dwight Pettit says Schurick wasn’t being deceptive. He says he was just following advice from campaign consultant Julius Henson. He insists the call was meant to be reverse psychology, meaning it would inspire those who heard it to rush to the polls to vote for Bob Ehrlich. Pettit called it a political misjudgment and a bad decision. In hindsight, he says, “It all seems stupid now.” But not, he argued, illegal.
“There was no criminal conspiracy on the second of November and I think the witnesses they produced testified most favorably for the defense,” Pettit said.
The defense also blames Henson for the fact that the call did not identify which campaign it came from, as required. Henson faces a separate trial in February.
The jury began deliberations around 2:30 p.m. They have been sent home for the day. Deliberations will resume Tuesday morning.
If convicted on all four criminal charges, Henson faces the possibility of up to 12 years in prison.