BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Guilty and facing time in prison. Jurors convict former Governor Bob Ehrlich’s campaign manager.
Adam May explains why the jury came to such a quick decision.
Ehrlich’s 2010 campaign manager said nothing to reporters after he was found guilty of election fraud and voter suppression.
“He is a nice guy but even nice guys do wrong things,” said Mike Johnson, Juror #8.
Jurors convicted Paul Schurick after just four hours of deliberations. He authorized a robocall that went out to 100,000 registered Democrats, urging them to stay home Election Night.
“Hello. I’m calling to let everybody know that Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful,” the call said. “Our goals have been met. The polls were correct, and we took it back. We’re OK. Relax. Everything’s fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations, and thank you.”
Jurors say the call was clearly illegal. Three jurors told WJZ they took issue with wording in the robocall that made it sound like it was coming from the Democratic party and not the campaign of Republican Bob Ehrlich. It was language Schurick admitted he approved.
“Suppression of the vote or confusion to suppress the vote is a very big problem because our country was founded on the right to vote,” said Naomi Rosenberg, Juror #2. “The fraudulent part of the message seemed to be a representation of who was sending that message, and that’s where we found it to be fraudulent.”
“It was the last minute, last day of the campaign, they’re losing and it’s kinda like he dropped back and punted, and it didn’t go so well,” said John Brinkley, Sr., Juror #3.
It’s a victory for state prosecutor Emmet Davitt, who hopes the conviction sends a message.
“This type of behavior is not just unfair tactics, it’s not just political dirty tricks, it’s against the law and we will enforce it,” Davitt said.
He says he didn’t buy the defense’s so-called “reverse psychology” explanation of the robocalls.
“I think it was ridiculous. I don’t buy it and evidently the jury didn’t as well,” said Davitt.
Schurick’s attorney plans to appeal.
“The regulation or attempt by the state to regulate political speech is unconstitutional. It’s a very simple argument,” said defense attorney Dwight Pettit. “If you allow the state to create arbitrary and capricious laws in terms of vagueness and what fraud is, and you allow that prosecution to control free political speech, then you throw a dagger in the heart of our political system.”
Schurick is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 16. He faces the possibility of up to 12 years in prison.
Another campaign consultant, Julius Henson, faces a separate trial in early February.
Bob Ehrlich released a statement, which says in part: “While I vehemently disagree with the decision from a Baltimore City jury, I do respect our legal system…I continue to support my friend Paul Schurick.”