Election fraud trial of Ehrlich consultant Henson set for Monday

The election fraud trial of long-time political consultant Julius Henson is set for Monday at 2 p.m. in Baltimore Circuit Court. 

Henson, 62, of East Baltimore, is accused of election fraud, conspiracy to violation election laws and failure to provide a campaign authority line on an Election Day 2010 robocall he created as a consultant for former Gov.Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The robocall, sent to thousands of voters as Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malleyswept to a re-election victory, was designed to suppress black votes by telling recipients to "relax" and assuring them that O'Malley had been successful even though the polls had not yet closed, prosecutors said. The call was scripted to give the impression it was coming from Democrats, not Republicans. 

In December, a Baltimore jury found Paul Schurick, Ehrlich's campaign manager, guilty of fraud and related charges for his role in the robocall, which he admitted he authorized Henson to create. 

The jury found Schurick guilty on four counts, including election fraud and failing to include an Ehrlich campaign authorization line on the calls. His attorney, A. Dwight Pettit, has vowed to appeal on First Amendment grounds that the call was protected, political speech. 

Schurick's sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 16. 

State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said he believed Schurick's conviction was the first under a 2006 addition to the Voter Rights Protection Act that made it illegal to use deceptive messaging to influence a voter's decision to go to the polls. 

Because of his own pending charges, Henson could not be compelled to testify in Schurick's case. Still, the political consultant's alleged activities loomed large during that trial. 

Jurors and observers heard testimony that Henson pitched the Ehrlich campaign on a $600,000 plan to suppress black votes in July 2010. Henson's plan was evidence in Schurick's trial. It stated that "the first and most desired outcome is voter suppression." The goal was to have "African-American voters stay home." In the same document, Henson proposed what he called the "Schurick Doctrine," which was designed to "promote confusion, emotionalism and frustration among African American Democrats."

The Ehrlich campaign rejected the plan but continued to pay Henson $16,000 a month — for a total of $112,000 — and promised him a $30,000 bonus should Ehrlich win.