A request to dismiss charges that former campaign operatives for County Councilman Michael Peroutka broke state campaign laws with a robocall was denied Tuesday in District Court, setting up a trial more than two years after the election ended.
Dennis Fusaro of Stephens City, Virginia, who served as Peroutka's campaign manager in his 2014 council bid, and Stephen Waters of Greensboro, North Carolina, a Republican political consultant, were charged last spring with violating and conspiring to violate the authority line requirements established under Maryland's election laws.
Fusaro and Waters allegedly were involved in robocalls made just before election day connecting Peroutka's opponent, Democrat Patrick Armstrong, with transgender rights.
Judge John P. McKenna denied the motions to dismiss made on behalf of both defendants, which questioned the constitutionality of the Maryland law.
McKenna did grant the defendant's attorneys permission to resubmit their motions after the facts in the case emerge at trial.
The robocall to 5,000 households was attributed to "Marylanders for Transgenders" makes reference to gender identity anti-discrimination legislation derided by opponents as a "bathroom bill."
The call urged voters to call Armstrong and "thank him for his bravery coming out of the closet" and for his supposed support of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, a state law passed in 2014 protecting against discrimination based on gender identity.
Peroutka, R-Millersville, has denied any prior knowledge of the calls and has not been charged.
Trial is set for Feb. 13. Fusaro and Waters face a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $5,000 fine for each charge.