A Florida man and former chief of staff for a U.S. senator who allegedly crashed a Chilmark fundraiser for Presidential candidate John Edwards last month and stole several campaign documents appeared in Edgartown district court on Friday for a brief pretrial conference.
Michael Duga, 31, is charged with breaking and entering during the daytime, a felony, two charges of trespassing, one charge of larceny from a building and one charge of possession of a class D drug (marijuana).
According to police, Mr. Duga used a press credential identifying him as the chief of staff to former Sen. Maxwell Cleland of Georgia to gain access to an August 25 fundraiser for Mr. Edwards at the home of Chilmark resident Alex MacDonald.
Once inside, Mr. Duga worked at a table where tickets were being sold, although he was not a member of the Edwards campaign, police said.
The next morning, Chilmark police arrested Mr. Duga at the Menemsha Coast Guard Station after officials called to report a suspicious person on their property. Coast Guard officials said Mr. Duga was looking through paperwork and made telephone calls from the Coast Guard boat house without permission.
When police questioned Mr. Duga, he said he was volunteering for the Edwards campaign. Questioned about his presence on U.S. Coast Guard property, Mr. Duga said he wished to notify the Coast Guard commander of several security deficiencies he had observed, police said.
When police searched Mr. Duga’s vehicle they reportedly found several documents from the Edwards campaign, including a computer-printed itinerary of event stops with times and locations and documents that included the names of campaign team members, their cell phone numbers and hotel room assignments.
Police also found a government identification Mr. Duga reportedly stole from a barracks at the Coast Guard station.
Mr. Duga was scheduled for a pretrial conference on Friday, but questions surfaced over his legal representation. When his case was called, he was without a lawyer. Edgartown defense attorney Charles Morano then had a brief conversation with Mr. Duga and emerged to tell the Hon. John M. Julian: “It sounds like I’m going to be retained.”
The case was continued to Sept. 28 for further pretrial conference, but not before Mr. Duga asked if he could address the court. Judge Julian advised Mr. Duga not to do so, noting he was still without legal representation and any statements he made might be used against him.
But Mr. Duga insisted, and the judge relented, noting his right to address the court.
“I’d like to apologize today for the first time,” Mr. Duga said. “I’d like to apologize to the Chilmark police department.”