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Maryland Robocall Conviction Puts Political Dirty Tricksters On Notice

Election-day dirty tricksters be forewarned: getting caught trying in a voter-suppression scheme can draw you a prison term, at least in Maryland.

That's one take away message from Tuesday's conviction of the man who served as campaign manager for the effort of Maryland's former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr.'s to regain the governorship.

A Baltimore jury found Paul Schurick guilty of election fraud on state charges related to 2010 voter-suppression robocalls meant to keep some African American voters, predominantly Democrats, away from the polls on election day.

As NPR's Pam Fessler reported on All Things Considered Monday, the calls made on the afternoon of Election Day last year to black voters essentially suggested there was no need for them to vote since the Democratic Gov, Martin O'Malley was so far ahead he had essentially already won the race.

As Pam reported for the NPR newscast:

"The calls were made in areas with large concentrations of African American voters. Schurick says he was hoping to spur potential Ehrlich voters to come to the polls. His attorney says he's planning to appeal on First Amendment grounds, arguing that the calls are protected free speech."

The trial jury didn't buy the defense lawyers' First Amendment theory of the case. Nor did they accept the notion that Schurick was actually trying to get black voters to come out to vote for his Republican boss.

An excerpt from Luke Broadwater's Baltimore Sun report:

"Jurors said they didn't accept arguments that the call was protected free speech.

" 'Your free speech does have certain limits,' said Niomi Rosenberg, juror No. 3. 'Confusion to suppress votes is a very big problem.' "

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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