Robocall was shameful but not false

Sen. Lisa Gladden and Del. Sandy Rosenberg, both Democrats, claim in a letter ("Free speech v. voter fraud," Dec. 18) responding to my op-ed ("Schurick's behavior wrong, but not criminal," Dec. 11) that the 2005 "Voter's Rights Protection Act" outlaws tactics intended to "influence a voter's decision whether to go to the polls to cast a vote."

Then they allow that under the law, political speech is "actionable only when it is false or made with reckless disregard for the truth."

From such a summary should follow textual evidence of a lie in the robocalls themselves. The shameful calls, inappropriate and even contemptible as they were, avoided factual lies; the robocalls that Paul Schurick approved contained no falsehood.

Further, the second main argument of my earlier op-ed piece is ignored: that the criminal prosecution of Mr. Schurick and Julius Henson constituted selective prosecution; that is, prosecution against those representing Republican interests. There has not been comparable criminal prosecution against Democrats' political persuasion in their long history of deceptive campaigning, and the prosecutor has a decided Democratic political history.

Richard J. Cross III, a former press secretary and speechwriter for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, disagrees elsewhere with my op-ed, but asks tellingly, "Will future Democratic campaigns employing fraudulent tactics to trick voters face similar prosecutorial wrath? That's when the real test will come."

He has a point regarding judicial consistency, but the answer is not to expand the criminalizing of speech; it should be to limit criminal action concerning political speech to factual lies directly targeted to interfere with the voting process.

The case against Messrs. Schurick and Henson should not have been brought forth, and the bringing of the case will pose the consistent threat of criminalizing free speech, but perhaps just for Republicans.

Richard E. Vatz, Towson

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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