BALTIMORE (WJZ)— A big mistake. That’s how his attorney describes the charges against a former Ehrlich aide in Maryland’s Election Day robocall scandal.
Political reporter Pat Warren has the latest on the criminal case brought by the state prosecutor’s office.
The indictments center around what the prosecutor describes as a conspiracy to suppress the votes of African-Americans in the 2010 governor’s race.
The state contends that political operative Julius Henson and former Governor Ehrlich’s communications director Paul Schurick devised a recorded message to voters to mislead them into thinking the governor’s race had been won:
“I’m calling to let everyone 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.”
A Maryland law co-sponsored by Baltimore Democrat Sandy Rosenberg after the 2002 election makes this kind of call illegal.
“I was aware of this election night,” Rosenberg said. “I mean somebody called me at 5 o’clock to say I’ve gotten this call and immediately I thought of this provision in the law.”
An attorney for Schurick tells WJZ the charges are a mistake.
“I can tell you there was absolutely no conspiracy to suppress or discourage African-American vote,” said Peter Zeidenberg, Schurick’s attorney.
Prosecutors reportedly have a document called the Schurick doctrine, which they say states the first and foremost desired outcome is voter suppression and targets African=Americans.
Attorney Zeidenberg says the campaign rejected that idea early on and never acted on it.
“We want all the facts to come out,” Zeidenberg said. “Mr. Schurick’s been cooperating with the prosecutor. He’s been upfront with them, and we think at the end of the day when all the facts come out that it’ll be clear there is no evidence that they had any conspiracy, any agreement, or any intent to suppress African-American vote.”
Rosenberg says preventing dirty tricks has been the point of the law all along.
“You put the provisions in the law to deter somebody from engaging in these tactics. The preferred outcome is people don’t do these dirty tricks,” Rosenberg said.
WJZ’s repeated calls to Henson’s attorney were not returned on Friday.
These are criminal charges and convictions could result in jail time.