Paul Schurick and Julius Henson plead not guilty in Ehrlich robocalls case

BALTIMORE (AP/WJLA) -{ } On election day last fall, things didn't look good for former Governor Bob Ehrlich and his bid to unseat Governor Martin O'Malley. According to state prosecutor Julius Henson, an operative employed by the Ehrlich campaign came up with the idea for a robocall to slow turnout among pro-O'Malley black voters.

The call to 112,000 numbers was allegedly approved by top Ehrlich aide Paul Schurick. Potential voters got a call that began by saying O'Malley and Barack Obama have been successful in their bids for office.

“We're okay. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight,” the recorded call told potential voters.

Henson and Schurick have been accused of voter suppression and charged with violating election laws. A grand jury indicted them in June for allegedly conspiring to use robocalls to discourage voters from going to the polls.

They pleaded not guilty Monday.

Voters ABC7 spoke to called the robocalls a dirty trick.

“For year we've come a long way trying to get our rights so for someone to play with your mind like that that's not right,” said Trevell Robinson, who lives in Prince George’s county.

In arraignments in court in Baltimore both men pleaded not guilty. Schurick, who was a top aide to Governor William Donald Schaefer before joining Ehrlich's staff, declined to comment but stood by with his family as his lawyer spoke on his behalf.

“I don't believe evidence will show any suppression or any intentional acts,” said Schurick’s lawyer Dwight Pettit.

Henson has been more vocal. He says the calls were "counterintuitive" and designed to get Ehrlich voters to the polls. He maintains the calls violated no laws.

Robocalls are unsolicited, automatic telephone calls. They are an inexpensive tool that can be used to reach voters in a certain area or to reach certain types of voters.

A trial date for Schurick and Henson has been set for Sept. 22.