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Henson fights charge that campaign violates probation

Former political consultant Julius Henson said he is “shocked” by allegations that his run for state Senate violates the terms of his probation.

Julius Henson

Julius Henson held a news conference at his home on Wednesday to address the allegations that the terms of his probation bar him from running for office. ‘I’ve done everything the parole people have asked me to do,’ he says. (AP Photo)

“It is an attempt to criminalize this campaign,” Henson said at a news conference Wednesday.

Henson was convicted in May 2012 for his role in sending automated robocalls while the polls were open on Election Day 2010, which sought to convince Democrats to stay home instead of voting in the gubernatorial election.

Baltimore City Circuit Judge Emanuel Brown sentenced Henson to a year in prison but suspended all but 60 days. Henson was also put on three years’ probation, with the provision that he “shall not work in any political campaign paid/volunteer during probation.”

According to online court records, the state filed a violation of probation charge against him on Jan. 28, while he was ramping up for the Senate run. Henson is facing a court hearing on the charge in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Feb. 27.

Henson said he had not heard from his probation officer about any violations.

“I’ve done everything the parole people have asked me to do,” he said.

Henson announced Monday that he intended to run against East Baltimore Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, a five-term incumbent and president pro tem of the Maryland Senate.

During Wednesday’s news conference, Henson blamed Gov. Martin O’Malley and other Democrat officials for the probation-violation charge.

“I think the point is that it’s an overreach,” Henson said. “It’s an attempt and an effort to help my opponent because he is not winning in the street.”

He argued that the terms of his probation only keep him from working as a political consultant, not running for office.

“I believe the order said you should not work or volunteer in a political campaign,” Henson said. “Work as I understand it — my consulting firm worked for money. In my own campaign, I am not being paid.”

However, “if the circuit court wants to quibble over what is ‘work,’ it’s their prerogative to do so,” he said.

Henson said he plans to formally file as a candidate Thursday morning.

“In Maryland politics and the judicial system, everything is on the table,” Henson said.

Henson’s conviction stems from his work as a consultant in former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s 2010 election campaign.

On Election Day, automated calls went out to registered Democrat voters in Baltimore city and Prince George’s County, urging them to stay home and “relax,” implying Gov. Martin O’Malley had already bested Ehrlich in the race.

The calls did not disclose that they were placed on behalf the Ehrlich campaign.

Henson was charged with election fraud but acquitted on that count. He was convicted of one count of conspiracy to violate election laws.

He has always maintained that he was simply serving his client.

“I will not acquiesce and I am not going to say I’m sorry or that I was wrong,” Henson said. “I’ll stand by that.”

Henson and his company, Universal Elections Inc., must also pay $1 million to the state for sending the automated phone calls, according to a federal judge’s order in a separate civil case that was affirmed by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July.

Henson also appealed his Baltimore City Circuit Court conviction and sentence, but the Court of Special Appeals affirmed both in June.

Ehrlich’s campaign manager, Paul E. Schurick, was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to violate election laws, one count of election fraud and one count of violating the authority line requirement. He was sentenced to 30 days of home detention, a one-year suspended jail sentence and 500 hours of community service.