Friday, July 1, 2011

Rascovar On The Robocalls

Barry Rascovar, the dean of Maryland political analysts, had this thoughtful piece about the robocall scandal and the First Amendment issues it raises in The Gazette.
I agree with Mr. Rascovar’s conclusions. Even if Schurick and Henson are convicted, this matter will meander through the appellate process for years. They have a pretty decent shot of winning on appeal, I think. But the road to such a victory will be long and expensive.
Of course, First Amendment concerns would presumably not apply to count 5 of the indictments against both Schurick and Henson. This count applies to the fact that the robocalls did not contain an authority line.  If convicted on this count, the law calls for a year in prison and/or a $1000 fine.  The absence of an authority line is also the focus of federal civil action against Henson. If found guilty, Henson faces civil penalties theoretically totaling up to $168 million according to some reports.

Further, count 6 against Schurick is an obstruction of justice charge. This too would presumably be separate from any First Amendment issues - although the lawyers I have spoken to cannot seem to agree as to its seriousness. Some have characterized this charge as the most serious charge Schurick is facing. Others regard it as leverage.
I think these guys will look to cut a deal long before this matter reaches a jury. But that depends upon whether state prosecutors decide to make this an option.  And, if the feds decide to pursue their own criminal investigation, that could complicate things even further.
Stay tuned, folks. As Bette Davis once said, "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

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