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June 16, 2011

Ehrlich aides indicted in Election Day robocalls case


By Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz

Two longtime political operatives who worked last year on Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s gubernatorial return campaign were indicted today for ordering what the state prosecutor called deceptive robocalls intended to suppress votes on the night of the election.

Julius Henson and Paul Schurick each face three counts of conspiracy to violate Maryland election laws, one count of attempting to influence a voter's decision and one count of failing to provide an authority line (on campaign material). Schurick also is charged with one count of obstruction of justice.

Read the indictments here.

Edward Smith, Jr., Henson's attorney, said his client will plead not guilty. Peter Zeidman, an attorney for Schurick, said the charges are "based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts."

"When the truth comes out," Zeidman said, it will be clear that Schurick "did not violate any laws."

An arraignment in Baltimore Circuit Court is scheduled for July 18.

The former governor was not accused of wrongdoing. He released this statement: "I believe in the rule of law. I believe in my friend and colleague, Paul Schurick. I hope a fair resolution is reached as quickly as possible for both Paul and Mr. Henson."

The indictment, handed up by a Baltimore City grand jury, came after an eight-month investigation by State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt into tens of thousands of robocalls that went out late on Election Day. A caller instructed voters in Democratic areas to stay home and “relax” because Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley had already won. In fact, the polls were still open. (Full recording after the jump.) 

Henson, who'd worked mostly with Baltimore and Prince George's County Democrats before joining Ehrlich's team, acknowledged orchestrating the calls. He was paid $111,000 by the Ehrlich campaign for “community outreach.”

He told The Sun the calls were “counter-intuitive” and were intended to encourage supporters to vote. Schurick was Ehrlich's communications director when he was governor and was his top campaign aide last year.

The indictment describes a document titled "The Schurick Doctrine" and says that it was "designed to promote confusion, emotionalism, and frustration among African-American Democrats."

The indictment quotes from the document: "The first and foremost desired outcome [of the Schurick Doctrine strategy] is voter suppression."

Ehrlich testified before the grand jury earlier this month. Greg Massoni, another longtime Ehrlich aide, also appeared in before the grand jurors. Massoni and Ehrlich are working for the Washington office of law firm King & Spalding. It's unclear what Schurick is now doing. (Update: Schurick's attorney said his client is working as a consultant.)

Massoni is named in the indictment, along with Henry Fawell, Ehrlich's campaign communications director and Bernard Marczyk, the campaign's political director. Henson met with the men in summer 2010 and outlined a voter suppression strategy in 472 precincts -- but at that time the campaign decided it would be too expensive, according to the indictment.

Henson and Universal Elections associate, Rhonda Russell, also face a multimillion-dollar federal civil complaint filed in November by Maryland Attorney Douglas F. Gansler. An attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division also is listed as a plaintiff in the case.

Gansler alleges that the robocalls were made with the intent to suppress and intimidate voters in predominately African-American Democratic neighborhoods. The attorney general says 112,000 such calls were made on election night, and if found to be violations, each carries a $500 fine.

On May 25, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake denied Henson's motion to dismiss his civil case. The court is still entertaining a defense motion to stay the proceedings pending the outcome of any criminal cases. Defense attorney Edward Smith Jr. argued that the going to court in the civil case would violate the witnesses' right against self-incrimination.

Gansler's office, in a response to that motion filed June 2, argued that "defendants are asserting this privilege even though no criminal actions have commenced."

The recorded message, according to civil and criminal complaints: "Hello. I’m calling to let everyone know that Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct, and we took it back. We’re okay. Relax. Everything’s fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations, and thank you."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:36 PM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Elections


Ehrlich was a total fool to hire that race baiting piece of human garbage Henson.

was there anyone dumb enough to believe one of these robocalls? i know that isn't the point. i think you have to be really dumb to take one of these calls and then to believe them. when i see a politician calling my number i don't answer.

How is Henson any more of a race baiter than Paul "Oreos As Thick As Locusts" Schurick? The fact that Henson was willing to help suppress the black vote for $111,000 tells me that he's more of a whore than a race baiter?

Massoni and Ehrlich are working for the Washington office of law firm King & Spalding
Any comment from this firm regarding their corrupt employees?

So this was done by Ehrlich's top election aide, yet the ex-governor isn't accused of anything?

You think they made those robocalls without his knowledge? Charge him with the rest of them, there's no way he didn't know. Scumbags, all of 'em.

"It's unclear what Schurick is now doing."

It's not at all unclear what Schurick is now doing. He's sh--ting his pants.

I love how Ehrlich isn't indicted, too. Everyone hates a guy who didn't get caught more than the ones who did.

I'm sure he'll get off with probation or something. But the stink of that administration will never go away. He's an Agnew for a new generation. We should name the tollboths after him, too.

How does Erhlich get off the hook for this? He's the sleaze bag that set the tone for his campaign.

"Any comment from this firm regarding their corrupt employees?"

Any comment from you that neither was indicted?

Ehrlich and Massoni are corrupt.

Yeah and I bet they were both involved in the last election of Ehrlich. You know the one where they posted bulletins telling people in Baltimore that the election was moved to Wednesday. And that if they owed utilities bills there would be Baltimore police officers on hand to arrest them.

Republicans who scream about voter fraud by Democrats and want to limit the access of people to voting for this restrictive IDS scam are usually the ones we find have committed voter fraud. Look at Romney voting in MI where he hasn't lived in years and giving his sons address....

When are they going to bring down 90 percent of Maryland Governmentcheating lying thieving government officals. This is the show I want to see. Maryland is the most socialist liberal disgusting state to livein the entire country. The scumbag polititians here ave destroyed this state...

"Ehrlich and Massoni are corrupt. "

Empty allegations from an empty headed lib.

Ehrlich came across a certain way during his last election, that I was wondering what was going on. It was mainly in his attitude towards people that supported him.

As far a I can recollect, Henson worked against Ehrlich in his first election and when I heard Henson mentioned after the election, I felt that Ehrlich was a fool for hiring a former paid enemy.

While motivations have been speculated on, I wonder if Henson was there to actually inflame black people to motivate them to head for the polls, while taking Ehrlich's money.

That makes more sense to me, then what Gansler speculates. There is a huge lesson in this. Don't hire people who were declared enemies, no matter what they say.

"deceptive" robocalls? And in the eyes of the Sun this lieing,petulent,arrogant Governor OweMalley they helped with their deceptive articles....well I guess he's some Saint. Talk about convenient and invented Journalism.

If they're going to do indictments then... where is the indictment for Susan Turnball for the MD Dems hosting 'free food and drink' if you voted across the street at the early voting center?!

This is obviously Bush's fault.

This part of the article says it all: "The Schurick Doctrine". This campaign consultant has a written plan on how to systematically surpress minority votes. Apparently, its one that's been used before and that certain candidates are willing to purchase to ensure that they're elected not on their merits but on the size of their campaign funds. Essentially Henson and Schurick anre given large sums of money to surpress voting. Is this the American way or the way of Free-Market systems!? Next time a story appears about foreign dictators doing these very undemocratic things to win elections, remember that our American elected officials are NO BETTER - again nothing has touched Erlich.

read the indictment. Massoni's greasy Squire pizza hands are all over it. Ask any of Ehrlich's politcal opponets about his dirty tricks. Sarah Palin was the smartest one of endorse hisprimary opponent.

I have asked it once and I will ask it again: The law explicitly states you cannot offer 'reward or offer of reward...for voting'. Why hasn't the Office of the State Prosecutor launched investigations into official offerings of food, drink, and entertainment by the MDP for individuals who displayed 'I voted' stickers? These offerings were made via festivals held across the street from early voting precincts and they fly in the face of the same law used here. I also question the media's retitence to investigate the matter beyond a simple blog blurb. These robocalls were horrible, but persecution and prosecution in Maryland--by media and legal officials--has sadly turned into a one-sided affair.

If Nixon, Madoff, Enron, and the mob taught us anything, it's that a culture of corruption very often starts at the top. Defenders of Ehrlich should pull out a history book.

The clowns who were indicted are pawns in a bigger game. It will be fun to see if they fold under pressure and give up the guy who gave the orders..

@ Water

You do see the difference between trying to encourage people to vote and trying to discourage people from voting, right?

This is an encouraging prosecution. Republicans are the vote suppressers and the determined cheaters about minority voting and they have been for years but are getting worse now.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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