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Texas woman is indicted over Bush's debate tape

WASHINGTON — A woman who worked for a media company that produced ads for President Bush's campaign was indicted for secretly mailing a videotape of Bush practicing for a debate to former Vice President Al Gore's campaign.

Juanita Yvette Lozano of Austin, Texas, was charged with mail fraud, false statements to the FBI and perjury before a grand jury. She is accused of scheming to get access to Bush's debate preparation materials "to assist Gore in his preparation for the presidential debate," said the 12-page indictment released by the Justice Department Tuesday.

If convicted, she faces 15 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Texas.

Lozano worked for Maverick Media, set up by top Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon, who handled political ads. McKinnon has denied any involvement and Bush expressed confidence in him during the campaign.

The indictment revived a campaign-season furor that had the Bush and Gore camps trading accusations about a possible mole. The Gore campaign received a package last Sept. 13 containing the Bush tape and related documents. Both camps denied knowing who sent it. An investigation focused on Lozano after a post office surveillance tape showed her mailing a package around the time the videotape was sent, federal officials said.

The indictment alleged that Lozano secretly copied more than 120 pages of debate preparation documents and a 60-minute videotape of a debate preparation session with Bush and his advisers and sent it to the Gore campaign under a different name.

Attempts to reach Lozano in Austin were not immediately successful.

Her attorney, Christopher Gunter, said Tuesday night: "She's disappointed, obviously." Gunter said he has not seen the indictment and cannot comment on the evidence. He wouldn't comment on his client's innocence or guilt.

Lozano sent the package to former Rep. Tom Downey, who was helping Gore prepare for debates, with a note bearing the name "Amy Smith," the indictment alleged.

"I will call you soon to find out what other materials can be useful to the VP. Good luck. Amy," the note said, according to the indictment.

Downey turned the package over to the FBI, which began an investigation. Gore and his staffers said they didn't know anything about how the package was sent. The Bush camp seized on news that a Gore staffer had been suspended for boasting about a "mole" planted in the Bush campaign. The staffer later said he made the mole story up.

A spokeswoman at Gore's transition office could not be reached.

Downey said Tuesday he was glad the FBI got to the bottom of the caper.

McKinnon said through his attorney that news of the indictment was "devastating for me and my family."

"The particulars of the indictment, if true, raise very serious questions about Yvette's activities and statements not only to prosecutors but to me," said McKinnon.

McKinnon is not a target of the FBI's investigation, said his lawyer Rusty Hardin.

Lozano has been a Democratic precinct chairwoman since 1998, according to Eddie Rodriguez, executive director of Travis County Democrats.

McKinnon, a former country-rock songwriter and consultant to Democrats, was not aware of Lozano's position, said Hardin. The two had been longtime friends — Lozano had been a nanny to his children — and McKinnon hired her at Maverick to do office work to help her out, he said.

Maverick Media said Lozano left the company after the campaign ended.