Saturday, December 3, 2011

Robocalls: What Did Schurick Know, and When Did He Know It?

In reviewing the news coverage of the Schurick robocall trial this past week, I noticed an interesting discrepancy in Paul Schurick’s account of how things played out:

On December 1, 2011 The Baltimore Sun reported:

"Special Agent John Poliks, an investigator for the state prosecutor's office, testified Wednesday that Schurick told him that he'd authorized the robocall but denied that he had heard its contents on Election Day. Poliks provided phone records to show that a copy of the robocall had been sent to the voice mail on Schurick's phone that day and that the campaign adviser had listened to his voice mail at 6:13 p.m. The robocalls began at 5:55 p.m. and ended at 8 p.m., phone records show.
"The robocall was 23 seconds long, and Schurick listened to his voice mail for 54 seconds, Poliks said."
OK, in light of Poliks’ testimony, the notion that Schurick did not listen to the phone call defies credibility. But even if it did not, The Baltimore Sun’s subsequent report of Schurick’s court testimony raised another issue:

"Schurick told the jury that he recalled saying: 'Julius, I am paying you $16,000 a month. Give me a plan.' Henson did, he said.
"He said that Henson pitched a robocall that Henson told him was 'counterintuitive.'
"'He read me a proposed script, and I approved it,' Schurick said. Asked by A. Dwight Pettit, his lead defense attorney, if anything in it was aimed at suppressing the vote, Schurick replied, 'Absolutely not.'"

In other words, Schurick testified that Henson “read” him the script of the robocall, and that he “approved” it. But, in an earlier conversation with the state investigator, he denied hearing its contents before it was actually fielded on Election Day.

In other words, it does not really matter if Schurick heard the same recorded version recipients did (though circumstantial evidence suggests he did). What matters is he listened to and approved the actual contents when Henson read it to him.

Schurick’s testimony to the investigator, even if technically accurate, could be interpreted  as misleading because it implies the call went out without him ever hearing the contents.

But his court testimony makes it clear that, rather than simply authorize the robocall in a conceptual sense, he heard and approved the substance as well.

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