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July 7, 2011

Robocalls civil and criminal cases to proceed

A federal judge ruled today that a civil complaint about allegedly fraudulent robocalls made on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign may proceed at the same time as state criminal cases.

Political operative Julius Henson, a consultant to the Republican former governor, ordered a batch of Election Day robocalls that urged Democratic voters in Baltimore and Prince George's County to "relax" and stay home because Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and President Barack Obama "have already been successful." In fact, the polls were still open.

Henson and Rhonda Russell, an employee at his Universal Elections company, are defendants in a federal civil case brought late last year by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler. The defendants' attorney, Edward Smith Jr., had sought to stay the civil proceedings because Henson also is a defendant in a new criminal case.

Last month, State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt secured grand jury indictments against Henson and top Ehrlich aide Paul Schurick. An arraignment is scheduled for July 18.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake today denied the defense motion to stay the civil case. "Other than unfounded attacks on the motives of the Attorney General, the defendants have not explained why a blanket stay of this action is warranted by the existence of a partially parallel criminal indictment brought by the State Prosecutor," she wrote.

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Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 6:07 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
        

May 13, 2011

Subpoenas going out in Ehrlich robocall case

The Baltimore Sun's Laura Vozzella is reporting a "surprising update" in the investigation of questionable election-night robocalls ordered up by the campaign of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

She writes on Baltimore Insider:

The update: They've just subpoenaed someone to testify before a grand jury on the matter later this month.

The surprising part: The subpoena was served on that someone right in front of me.

Political operative Julius Henson, who was working for the Republican former governor, faces a federal civil complaint in the case. The Office of the State Prosecutor also is investigating, though the agency would not comment on any subpoenas it may or may not have issued.

Continue reading "Subpoenas going out in Ehrlich robocall case" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:28 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
        

January 7, 2011

Kendel Ehrlich leaving WBAL radio

WBAL Radio Friday confirmed that Kendel Ehrlich is leaving the station and will be replaced Saturday mornings on air by Clarence Mitchell IV starting tomorrow, Sun colleague David Zurawik is reporting.

From his post, over at his Z on TV blog:

Both general manager Ed Kiernan and news director Mark Miller characterized the move as something Ehrlich had been considering at least since the election in November that saw her husband, Bob, defeated by Martin O'Malley in the governor's race.

Miller and Kiernan said Ehrlich was making the move in an effort to spend more time at Saturday sports events involving their family. Ehrlich, who also regularly appeared on a weekly roundtable show Friday afternoons on the station, will no longer be part of that group either for the immediate future, Miller said.

He added, however, that she had an invitation to be one of several guests who will be involved in the roundtable as the station works to expand the participants and re-brand it as a "stand-alone show."

If she does appear on that show, it would not be until February, according to Miller.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:10 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
        

December 23, 2010

Ehrlich on robocalls: 'I don't think they work'

A reporter for the news site Towson Patch caught up with Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday at a Princeton-Towson basketball game, where the twice-defeated Republican former governor briefly discussed his future and the controversial Election Day robocalls that are under investigation.

Ehrlich, who sat courtside with his two boys as his alma mater defeated Towson, wouldn't comment on the state investigation of his operative Julius Henson and the batch of more than 112,000 robocalls deployed in the final hours before polls closed Nov. 2.

Henson's home was raided last week as part of a state prosecutors' investigation, and Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has already filed a civil lawsuit against Henson, alleging voter intimidation and voter suppression.

Henson has acknowledged ordering the robocalls, which told voters to "relax" and stay home instead because Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley had already "been successful." But the operative, who also works with dozens of Democrats in Baltimore and Prince George's County, has said Ehrlich probably had no knowledge of the calls.

Ehrlich told Patch that his campaign did not order robocalls from Henson or anybody else

"I'm not a fan of [robocalls]," Ehrlich said. "I don't think they work." 

Continue reading "Ehrlich on robocalls: 'I don't think they work'" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:04 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
        

December 17, 2010

Investigators raid home of Ehrlich robocaller

Investigators for the state prosecutor on Friday raided the home and office of Julius Henson, the political operative who ordered the controversial Election Day robocalls for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Emmet C. Davitt, Maryland’s new state prosecutor, declined to comment on the raid. Neither Henson nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Friday.

WBAL-TV, which broke the news of the morning raid, aired footage showing investigators carrying boxes away from Henson's home from an early morning raid.

Henson, a Democratic operative who was working this year for the Republican Ehrlich, ordered more than 112,000 robocalls before the polls closed on Election Day last month.

The calls focused on Democratic precincts in Baltimore and Prince George’s County. The recorded message featured a female voice suggesting that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley had already won the election and encouraging supporters to stay home.

The woman told voters to “relax” because “Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful.… Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight.”

Nobody answered the door Friday at Henson’s home on Decker Street. There was also nobody answering Friday afternoon at his office on North Charles Street.

Henson has acknowledged orchestrating the calls. He told The Baltimore Sun last month that the message was meant to encourage turnout.

“We believe the call was made for voters in Baltimore City who were not going to go to the polls, to go to the polls and vote,” Henson said in early November. “It never said, ‘Don't vote.’ ”

Henson said Ehrlich “probably” did not know about the calls. Ehrlich’s campaign paid Henson $111,000 for “community outreach.”

Ehrlich told the Annapolis Capital last week that the calls were “done outside of my purview.” When news of the calls broke on Election Night, an Ehrlich spokesman called them “absolutely irresponsible.”

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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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