Robocaller to pay $1M over election calls
BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) - Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced a $1 million judgment against a company for robocalls during the 2010 election.
Julius Henson, his company, Universal Elections Inc, and Rhonda Russell, an employee of the company, were ordered to pay $1,010,000 by the United States District Court for the District of Maryland for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
"On the night of the 2010 election, I vowed to discover who was responsible for these voter suppression robocalls and hold the perpetrators responsible," Gansler said. "With this verdict, that is exactly what we have done."
Henson and Russell allegedly wrote and recorded a robocall on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.'s 2010 campaign. The message was delivered to more than 112,000 Democratic voters in Prince George's County and Baltimore City.
"Hello. I'm calling to let everyone know that Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful," the message said. "Our goals have been met. The polls were correct and we took it back. We're okay. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you."
The message lacked the name, address or phone number of the party initiating the call in violation of the TCPA.
The district court found that the robocall's purpose was to suppress votes by the largely African-American and Democratic citizens in Baltimore City and Prince George's County.
Judge Catherine Blake concluded that Russell and Henson were aware of the TCOA's requirements that a campaign identify itself and knowingly violated the statute.
Julius Henson and Universal Elections must pay damages of $1 million, while Russell will pay $10,000. The court found that Russell's violations were committed as an employee while acting under Henson's directions.
"Voter suppression in Maryland will not be tolerated," Gansler said. "The court's opinion and damages award will hopefully make political consultants think twice before using these types of illegal dirty tricks again."