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Election robocall trial delayed for Ehrlich political operative

The trial of a Maryland political operative accused of encouraging voters in mostly black neighborhoods to stay home last Election Day was delayed Tuesday after a judge recused himself from the case.

Julius Henson, a campaign consultant for former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich in his rematch with Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, was set to go on trial on charges of using robocalls to encourage voters to stay home.

The calls told supporters of O’Malley and President Barack Obama to relax because the candidates had won. Henson has said he did not believe the calls were illegal and weren’t meant to suppress the vote.

After both sides assembled in court Tuesday, Baltimore Circuit Judge Wanda Heard announced that Henson’s trial had been postponed until Feb. 6. The assigned judge, Charles J. Peters, recused himself because he was appointed last year by O’Malley, said Edward J. Smith Jr., Henson’s attorney.

Smith also said he asked for more time to argue that state prosecutors cited a section of the law in their allegations that does not conform to the offenses Henson was charged with by a grand jury.

Henson and Paul Schurick, a longtime Ehrlich aide, are charged with three counts of conspiracy to violate state election laws. They also are charged with one count of attempting to influence a voter’s decision whether to go to the polls through the use of fraud and one count of failing to provide an authority line on distributed campaign material.

The authority line violations carry a maximum of a year in prison if convicted. The other charges carry up to five years in prison for each count if convicted.

Schurick faces an additional charge of obstruction of justice for allegedly withholding documentation sought through a grand jury subpoena. His trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 28.