Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—The First Amendment doesn’t protect fraud. That’s the ruling from a Baltimore judge against the man behind the controversial 2010 Election Night robocalls on behalf of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich.
Derek Valcourt explains the defense argued the entire case goes against the Constitution.
They argue, even if the message in those robocalls wasn’t true, it’s still protected by free speech so they say the whole case should be thrown out.
But the judge didn’t quite see it that way.
On Election Night before the polls were even closed, that robocall suggested that Governor Martin O’Malley and his allies had already won–hinting to 112,000 registered Democrats who got the call there was no need to go vote.
But since those calls really came from Republican Bob Ehrlich’s campaign, the state prosecutor says those robocalls were an illegal attempt at voter suppression.
He already scored a conviction late last year against campaign manager Paul Schurick, and now he’s going after the man who wrote the robocall– campaign consultant Julius Henson, whose attorneys argued he’s protected by the First Amendment.
“The speech clause in the constitution says that political speech is free, and that they cannot control the content,” said Henson.
Judge Emmanuel Brown ruled Tuesday the voter laws Henson is charged with are constitutional.
Legal expert Byron Warnken predicts the case won’t go well for Henson.
“I think it ends up being a repeat of what happened in the Schurick trial,” Warnken said.
Henson did get one piece of good news. The judge agreed to drop one of the three conspiracy charges against him– calling the charge redundant.
Jury selection in the case should begin Wednesday morning.
Schurick will find out if he will go to jail for his role in the robocall controversy when he is sentenced Feb. 16.