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Grand Jury Convened To Investigate Robo-Calls

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A state prosecutor has convened a grand jury to investigate what some called political dirty tricks surrounding last year's hotly-contested governor's race.

Kelly McPherson has the new case developments.

In the final hours of a heated governor's race in November, controversy spread across Maryland as more than 100,000 voters received a robo-call telling people that Martin O'Malley had been re-elected and so they didn't need to vote.

Many called it a shady move to keep Democrats away from the polls.  Days later, a political operative for the Ehrlich campaign admitted he ordered the calls.

"I'm on the Bob Ehrlich team.  We thought that a call like that would help and we made the call," said Julius Henson.

WJZ has learned that a grand jury is convening to investigate the robo-calls.  Several subpoenas have been issued, including one to WJZ.  The subpoena is for video of an interview we did last November with political operative Julius Henson.

"I'm not going to throw Bob Ehrlich or Bob Ehrlich's team under the bus.  It was a decision that was made in the heat of the campaign," Henson said.  "Mr. Ehrlich had probably no knowledge of the call."

Henson and others responsible for the call have already been named in a federal civil suit by Maryland's attorney general.

"This was with the intent to suppress voter turnout," said Attorney General Doug Gansler.

Now whomever is named in the grand jury hearing could face jail time.

"It's far worse to be faced with a criminal case rather than a civil case because obviously the repercussions are going to be worse.  That said, a criminal case has a much higher burden of proof to be able to sustain his case," said attorney Bill Sinclair.

Henson earned tens of thousands of dollars from the Ehrlich campaign and says he doesn't think he did anything illegal.

"The United States government and the state have more things to do, like find some jobs.  There was never any intention to have that call not have people come out and vote," Henson said.

Voter intimidation could mean up to five years in jail and fines.

A month after the election, former Governor Bob Ehrlich made one public comment about the robo-calls, saying, "They were done outside of my purview."

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