By Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun
5:08 PM EDT, July 29, 2013
A federal court on Monday rejected political consultant Julius Henson's appeal of a $1 million civil judgment against him for an illegal Election Day robocall.
The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision that Henson, his company, Universal Elections Inc., and an employee violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act with a November 2010 automated campaign message to more than 112,000 Democratic voters in Maryland.
In the case brought by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, the state argued that the call was designed to suppress black votes.
The message failed to include information on the call's sponsor. Henson was employed by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Martin O'Malley for re-election.
Before the polls closed that Election Day, Henson's campaign produced and distributed a recorded telephone message that told the Democratic voters that O'Malley and President Barack Obama were successful.
"We're OK. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you," the message said.
Henson's employee, Rhonda Russell, was fined $10,000. She did not participate in the appeal.
Henson argued that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act was unconstitutional when applied to robocalls. He contended that it violated the First Amendment by imposing a burden on political speech.
In a separate criminal case, Henson was found guilty of conspiracy to violate election law and sentenced to 60 days in jail and ordered to serve 300 hours of community service.
Neither Henson nor his attorney could be reached for a comment.
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