ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s second-highest court has affirmed the verdict in the election fraud trial of a campaign consultant involving Election Day automated calls that prosecutors said were aimed at keeping Black voters from the polls.
Julius Henson worked for former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s campaign during his 2010 rematch with Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley. Last year, a Baltimore jury convicted him of conspiring to send robocalls without an authority line that explained who sent the message. He appealed, arguing that the verdict was inconsistent and the application of the election law was constitutionally vague.
The Court of Special Appeals disagreed with both questions in a ruling filed last week. It also found that the jury instruction was not erroneous and a sentence barring participation in politics during probation was legal.
“This case presents us with a sad tale,” wrote Judge Albert J. Matricciani, for a three-judge panel that ruled on the case.
Matricciani wrote for the group in a 17-page opinion made public Friday that Henson “and his collaborators callously attempted to manipulate members of the electorate in an effort to dissuade predominantly African-American voters from exercising their constitutional right to vote in a gubernatorial election.” The judges said “the current appeal presents no grounds to reverse his conviction or sentence.”
The calls were sent in the hours before polls closed on Election Day to about 110,000 Democratic voters in Baltimore and Prince George’s County — two jurisdictions with high percentages of black voters. The calls told listeners to “relax” because O’Malley had won.
Henson, who is Black, testified at the trial that he was hired to help the Ehrlich campaign with African-American community outreach and the calls were a counterintuitive attempt to stimulate voting in the final hours of the election.
Henson also said at the time that 50 percent of campaign materials don’t have authority lines, and he likened the lack of one to jaywalking.
Henson was sentenced to one year in jail with all but 60 days suspended, 300 hours of community service and three years of probation, during which time he is barred from election work in a paid or volunteer capacity.