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Political consultant found guilty of one charge in robocall scandal

By Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun –

BALTIMORE — Political consultant Julius Henson faces up to one year in prison after a jury decided Friday that he is guilty of one of four charges resulting from the Election Day 2010 robocall scandal.

Henson, who will be sentenced June 13, was acquitted of two counts of conspiracy to violate election laws and one count of election fraud. He was found guilty of one count of failing to include a campaign authority line in the automated call.

Henson was working for the campaign of former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican who was trying to block the re-election of Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat.

The 63-year-old consultant said he will lose millions of dollars in business for the 2012 election cycle, adding that most campaigns are already committed to other consultants. He dismissed the significance of including the line that identified the call as being authorized by the Ehrlich campaign.

“Fifty percent of campaign materials don’t have an authority line; it’s sort of similar to spitting on the sidewalk, jaywalking,” he said. “It’s not enforced.”

Henson credited God and the prayers of those seeking justice for being found not guilty on three of the four charges. His lawyer, Edward Smith, said he will seek a re-trial on the guilty verdict.

Prosecutors argued that the robocall was intended to give black voters the impression that O’Malley was victorious over Ehrlich and they had no need to head out to the polls.

Henson said the call was intended to do just the opposite: prompt those voters to cast a ballot for Ehrlich. He argued that the call used reverse psychology.

Henson’s two-week trial followed that of Paul Schurick, Ehrlich’s campaign manager. Henson said it was Schurick who instructed him to produce the call, which was made to Democrats in Baltimore and Prince George’s County. Henson also said Schurick approved the text of the call and told him to exclude the authority line.

Schurick also argued that the call was intended to encourage voters in the city and Prince George’s County — two historically Democratic strongholds — to vote for Ehrlich.

In December, Schurick was convicted of four charges related to election fraud. He was sentenced to 30 days of home detention and 500 hours of community service. He is expected to remain on probation for four years.

Ehrlich, who lost the election, has said he did not know about the call.

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