The charges against Fusaro and also Stephen Waters stemmed from a 2014 robocall that went to about 5,000 conservative Anne Arundel County, Maryland residents the weekend before the 2014 election, congratulating Democratic County Council candidate Patrick Armstrong "for his bravery in coming out of the closet" and linking him to a controversial measure that banned discrimination against transgender people in public areas, including restrooms.
Fusaro worked for the campaign of Armstrong's opposition Michael Anthony Peroutka, Peroutka was elected to the Council but has denied any knowledge of the call.
The recording gave the home phone number of Armstrong's mother and invited residents to call about Armstrong's support of "the bathroom bill."
Prosecutors said the call lacked the appropriate identification and came from what they described as "an untraceable" prepaid cell phone purchased with cash by Waters and Fusaro at Walmart in Fredericksburg, Va.
"The call in question failed to identify Fusaro and Waters as the persons responsible for the call, and failed to state whether it was authorized by any candidate," prosecutors said in a statement. "Instead, the call falsely stated that it was 'Paid for and authorized by Marylanders for Transgenders'" the statement said, adding that prosecutors believe the pair bought burner phones "in an effort to conceal their identities as the persons authorizing and paying for the call."
Fusaro and Waters were both sentenced to a year in jail with all but 30 days suspended, by District Court Judge John P. McKenna Jr. They were also sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation and a $1,000 fine.
The sentence was more severe than the prosecution sought. Prosecutors only sought a fine.
McKenna said the goal of the sentence was to deter the defendants from repeating the crime and to send a message to others involved in the political process not to engage in such conduct either.
Fusaro has issued the following statement following the conviction and sentencing:
This is only the first quarter of a long ball game. There are serious questions of free speech that affect libertarian-minded individuals every where. The district court judge issued a 14-page written opinion in a court not of record. Uninvolved attorneys who've been watching this case and who know the Maryland court system say this is very unusual. They say something is afoot.
I have appealed this case to the circuit court above for Trial de Novo.The recording of the transgender robocall can be found here.