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Political Scandals Impacting Md. Politics

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The trial for one of the men behind the 2010 Election Night robocall ended in guilty verdicts. It's the latest political scandal to make its way before a Maryland jury.

Derek Valcourt has more on the impact these cases are having in Maryland politics.

Political observers say the law is increasingly looking at politicians and their operatives with a closer eye.

A Baltimore jury ruled  former Governor Bob Ehrlich's campaign manager Paul Schurick authorized fraudulent Election Night robocalls intended to keep African-American Democrats from voting, by implying Democrats had already won.

"Hello. I'm calling to let everybody know that Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful," the call said. "Our goals have been met. The polls were correct, and we took it back. We're OK. Relax. Everything's fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations, and thank you."

"This was a blatant effort to suppress the vote," said UMBC Public Policy Chairman Donald F. Norris.

Norris argues laws against political corruption and fraud are getting tougher, pointing out Schurick was prosecuted under a relatively new 2006 Maryland election fraud law. But Norris says tougher laws aren't enough to change the way politics play out in Maryland.

"People who are going to be corrupt are going to do this regardless of the law. Take a look at Jack Johnson," Norris said.

Tuesday, a judge sentenced former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson to seven years in prison after a jury convicted him on bribery charges. That comes almost two years after Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon left office in disgrace when a Baltimore jury found her guilty of taking gift cards intended for the needy. Just last month, state Senator Ulysses Currie beat federal charges that he accepted bribes from a grocery chain, but now faces possible ethics punishments from his colleagues in the State House.

Schurick's conviction is now the latest in a series of Maryland political scandals.

"I hope it sends a message to the people who work out there on sort of the dirty edge of politics and think they can get away with things like this that maybe you can't get away with it. Maybe you better be careful. Maybe you better not do it," Norris said.

It's not the last we'll hear of the robocall scandal. Ehrlich campaign consultant Julius Henson is scheduled for trial in February.

Schurick faces the possibility of up to 12 years in prison at his sentencing Feb. 16.

Bob Ehrlich released a statement, which says in part: "While I vehemently disagree with the decision from a Baltimore City jury, I do respect our legal system...I continue to support my friend Paul Schurick."

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