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Fla. man held after event for Edwards

Allegedly said he is a campaign aide

A 31-year-old Florida man was arrested over the weekend in connection with impersonating an aide to Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards at a Martha's Vineyard fund-raiser, police said.

Secret Service agents assisted in questioning Michael Duga after he allegedly showed a police officer a badge and card that identified him as chief of staff to former senator Max Cleland, a Georgia Democrat, according to a report by the Chilmark Police Department. The identification card Duga presented had his photograph and name engraved on it, police said. Someone named Michael Duga did at one time serve as an aide for Cleland, according to news reports.

Duga, who was arraigned yesterday in Edgartown District Court on charges including marijuana possession and breaking into the Menemsha Coast Guard station, allegedly arrived at the Edwards fund-raiser Friday night in a stolen Chevrolet Suburban.

Two campaign aides told police that they saw Duga enter the same vehicle as Edwards and his wife when they left the event for Martha's Vineyard Airport. It was not clear yesterday whether Duga actually accompanied Edwards to the airport.

"Michael Duga does not work for our campaign; but we cannot comment any further, as this is a security issue and pending investigation," said Colleen Murray, a spokeswoman for the campaign.

Duga, who has a criminal history that includes selling drugs and carjacking, also allegedly had stolen campaign documents in his possession, police said.

"The materials would have to have come from someone employed [by Edwards], not just a volunteer," the campaign officials told police, according to the report.

Kim Bruce, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service, said that because Edwards is not under their protection, they would not have been in a position to arrest Duga. She declined to comment on whether Secret Service agents questioned Duga or had assisted in the investigation.

Duga was arrested Saturday morning after Coast Guard officials reported finding him in the Menemsha station. He pleaded not guilty yesterday and was being held on $2,500 bail at the Dukes County House of Correction in Edgartown.

It was not clear who was representing him. A man who identified himself as Duga's father at a home in Coral Springs, Fla., declined to comment.

When confronted by police, Duga said he was volunteering for the Edwards campaign and investigating security lapses at the station. He told police he wanted to speak to the commander of the station about 27 security deficiencies. "He was using military jargon and lots of acronyms," according to the police report.

Police searched the Suburban, which Duga parked in a place designated for the station's senior chief, and found three sheets of stick-on Edwards campaign badges; a computer-printed itinerary of Edwards's campaign stops, with times and locations; 10 sheets of Edwards's personal stationery and envelopes; and other documents with the names, cellphone numbers, e-mail addresses, and hotel room assignments for campaign staff members.

At the fund-raiser at the home of Alex MacDonald in Chilmark, Duga apparently spent the night at the front table helping check people in who bought tickets.

"Mr. Duga appeared to be very excited in his actions," according to the report. "He appeared to be working normally at the front table."

Reached at his home, MacDonald, who hosted the event, would only say: "At no time was Mr. Duga employed by or authorized to act on behalf of the Edwards for President 2008 campaign."

Duga must return to Edgartown District Court for a hearing on Sept. 7.

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