Judge Emmanuel Brown of the Baltimore Circuit Court sentenced campaign consultant, Julius Henson, to roughly two months in prison June 13.
He was also sentenced to one year of probation and directed to serve 300 hours of community service within 24 months.
A jury in May acquitted the veteran political operative of three other charges of election law violations but convicted him on one count of failing to include a sponsorship line in automated calls on Election Night of 2010.
The calls, aimed at African American neighborhoods, discouraged mostly Democrat voters from heading to the polls election night.
“From the state’s prospective this was a serious crime,” said Maryland Prosecutor Emmet Davitt. “I think the sentence by the court today sent a very strong message that this type of behavior is serious and will not be tolerated by the court.” The automated calls went out to 112,00 households in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County and told voters the election was already decided when in fact, polls were still open.
“I’m calling to let everyone know that Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful,” the voice said, reading from a script Henson said he wrote. “Our goals have been met. The polls were correct and we took it back. We’re okay. Relax.”
Henson was fined $1 million in May for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). His assistant, Rhonda Russell was fined $10,000 under the TCPA for recording the message, something Henson has said is evidence of racism.
“Paul Schurick gets found guilty on four charges, didn’t pay one single dime. Rhonda Russell was not found guilty of anything, wasn’t even on trial, wasn’t charged with anything, yet she was fined $10,000. That’s some perverse justice right there,” Henson said in an exclusive interview on Tuesday night with Baltimore CBS affiliate WJZ.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler disagreed. “The Court’s Opinion and damages award will hopefully make political consultants think twice before using these types of illegal dirty tricks again.”
“On the night of the 2010 election I vowed to discover who was responsible for these voter suppression robocalls and hold the perpetrators responsible,” said Gansler.
According to Henson’s statements in the interview, the entire case was retaliation for his breaking party lines to work for former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, a Republican. Henson maintains that it was Schurick’s decision to run the message without a sponsorship line and has strongly voiced his opinion about the lighter sentence given to the campaign manager. State officials say Henson’s failure to take the matter seriously contributed to his conviction and sentence.
“Everything Mr. Henson seemed to be saying both to the press and to the courts seemed to indicate that he didn’t think this was serious,” said Davitt. “He just didn’t seem to get it.”
Paul Schurick, was sentenced to 30 days house arrest, probation and 500 hours of community service.