Strategist for Pratt is arrested Julius Henson, who led campaign effort, charged with assault

September 18, 1998|By Peter Hermann and Devon Spurgeon | Peter Hermann and Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

The manager of Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt's latest campaign was arrested Wednesday at a Charles Village gas station and charged with assaulting a police officer during an argument over a credit card.

Julius Henson, 49, a rising political strategist who briefly oversaw the city's $3.2 billion real estate portfolio in 1996, engaged in what police and a witness describe as a profane argument that revolved around an $18 gasoline bill at a North Baltimore service station.

"He was really obscene," said Dalip Chad, the manager of the Crown station in the 2000 block of N. Charles St., who called police just before 3: 30 p.m. "Whoever this guy is, he needs to learn some manners."

Court documents filed yesterday outline a scuffle that prompted an officer to use pepper spray on Henson and two officers to put out an emergency call for help, in an attempt to subdue him.

Police said Henson was handcuffed after officers sped to the parking lot to help their colleagues, including two who said they were blinded by the pepper residue from the spray that Henson wiped from his brow and hurled back at them. Henson was charged with second-degree assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct -- all misdemeanors. He was released from custody on his own recognizance Wednesday night and was ordered to appear in District Court on Oct. 22.

Pratt, who on Tuesday lost a primary bid to be state comptroller in a campaign run by Henson, said she didn't know about the arrest until a reporter called yesterday afternoon. "I'm not familiar with any of the circumstances," she said.

Henson could not be reached for comment yesterday. The cellular phone he used during the campaign was disconnected, and the voice mail system at his home number would not accept messages.

A woman who answered Henson's apartment door in the 3000 block of E. Federal St. in East Baltimore declined to answer questions.

Henson, who has a background in printing, construction and politics, moved to the forefront of city politics in the past few years. In 1996, he ran a successful campaign for Del. Elijah E. Cummings in a crowded Democratic race for the 7th Congressional District seat.

Henson managed Pratt's successful city comptroller campaign in 1995, and a year later, she hired him to run the city's real estate office. The $79,000-a-year job included managing city-owned buildings, arranging leases for city agencies and organizing sales of tax-delinquent properties.

At the same time, Henson owned 15 rental homes, mostly in poor neighborhoods, and had been cited by the city for numerous code violations dating to 1983. Henson resigned in March 1996 after three weeks of controversy over his relationship with Pratt.

Wednesday's incident began, Chad said, after an unidentified woman tried to pay the bill with Henson's credit card.

"It was for his own protection," Chad said. "I just asked that he sign so the signature on the receipt matches what was on his card. He said, 'No, she will sign it.' " Chad said Henson's behavior became increasingly abusive, and he called police.

The police operator, according to court papers, said she could hear "verbal threats of violence" in the background. A uniformed Officer Robert Brooks arrived about 3: 30 p.m. and talked to Henson. "The defendant stated that it was his [card] and he wanted it back," the police report says.

Brooks said he would return the card after Henson showed identification to prove the names matched. "The defendant replied, 'You show me some ID,' and grabbed Officer Brooks," the report says.

By this time, Officer George V. Davis had arrived and both officers said they tried to subdue Henson. They accused Henson of crouching in a three-point stance and trying to grab Brooks by the neck.

Davis said he sprayed Henson in the face with a short burst of pepper spray. "The defendant wiped it off his face and threw it in our eyes. Now both of us are blind and defenseless," the report says.

The officers hit the "Signal 13" button on their radios, which sent out an emergency tone calling for help. At the same time, Chad dialed 911 from his booth and told an operator that "two officers are fighting with a suspect, and he just hurt them real bad."

Several officers arrived and handcuffed Henson. No further injuries were reported. Chad said he had never seen such a fracas. Pub Date: 9/18/98

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