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Citing Leopold decision, Baltimore state Senate candidate appeals probation violation

Baltimore political consultant Julius Henson appealed Wednesday a Circuit Court ruling that he violated his probation by running for a state Senate seat.

His lawyer said Henson's case is bolstered by Wednesday's ruling by the state Court of Special Appeals, which held that former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold could run for office during his probation for a misconduct conviction.

In that case, the appeals court said that while judges have broad power to sentence, the Maryland Board of Elections has the ultimate power to determine who is eligible to run for office.

Henson, 67, spent one month in jail and was serving a three-year probation for an election law violation in connection with a robocall during the 2010 governor's race. A judge ordered that during his probation, Henson was not to "work in any political campaign paid/volunteer."

But Henson decided to run for office himself. His Senate candidacy prompted Baltimore Circuit Judge Emanuel Brown to sentence Henson last month to four months in jail, saying Henson had violated the terms of his probation. Brown suspended the sentence pending an appeal.

Henson's lawyer, Russell Neverdon, said the Leopold decision "bolsters our position" that Henson is free to run for the General Assembly.

"This is clearly a separation-of-powers issue," Neverdon said. "It is within the Board of Elections' sole purview to determine the qualifications of a candidate."

Henson's campaign manager and staff will insulate him from anything that would constitute working on a campaign, Neverdon said, allowing Henson to deal directly with the constituents.

Neverdon said he's filing several motions with the court on Henson's behalf and expects the appeal to be heard in the term beginning in September.

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