Employee of Bush adviser pleads guilty to mail fraud involving debate tape
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – A former aide to George W. Bush’s campaign media adviser pleaded guilty Thursday to mail fraud and perjury, admitting she stole and mailed a Bush debate practice videotape to Al Gore’s campaign.
Juanita Yvette Lozano, 31, entered the plea in U.S. District Court after reaching an agreement with prosecutors in May.
Lozano faces up to 10 years in prison, up to six years of supervised release and up to $500,000 in fines, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks told her. She is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 17.
Outside the courthouse, she refused to answer questions.
White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo said the White House was saddened by news of the plea.
”We expressed early on that no one was more interested in getting to the bottom of this matter than we were. We said we would be sad and surprised if the allegations are true, and we are,” Mamo said.
Lozano’s attorney Christopher Gunter refused to answer questions, saying he would not comment until after sentencing. Prosecutor Raymond Hulser also declined comment.
Her guilty plea on the perjury charge involved lying to a grand jury. The government dropped one count alleging Lozano lied to the FBI during the investigation.
Lozano worked for Maverick Media, formed by top Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon to develop Bush’s political ads.
”(McKinnon) is just deeply saddened and extremely disappointed that she would do this to him, his family and the president,” said Rusty Hardin, attorney for McKinnon. ”Fortunately, it had no effect on the campaign, but she couldn’t have known that at the time and that was not her intent.”
In September, a Bush videotape, strategy book and other papers taken from Maverick Media were sent to former Rep. Tom Downey, D-N.Y., who was advising Gore before the first presidential debate with Bush.
Downey immediately turned the materials over to the FBI, and agents later identified Lozano as a suspect, based on surveillance videotape from an Austin post office.
The Gore campaign persistently denied any role in the mailing.
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