County says key phrase omitted in Chiquita case

Friday, December 4, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Prosecutors say they inadvertently left out a key phrase in the indictment against the lawyer accused of stealing voice-mail messages from Chiquita Brands International Inc.

In a motion filed Thursday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, special prosecutor Perry Ancona asked a judge to allow him to change the wording of the charges against Salt Lake City attorney George Ventura.

Mr. Ancona said he wants to add a phrase that was omitted "through clerical error and inadvertence."

The request refers to the final five counts of the 10-count indictment against Mr. Ventura and involves the felony charge of unauthorized access to computer systems.

Mr. Ancona's request to Judge Ann Marie Tracey states that the phrase is important because it makes it clear no one associated with Chiquita gave Mr. Ventura permission to access the voice-mail system.

He said the phrase -- "or other person authorized to give consent by the owner" -- specifies that Mr. Ventura did not receive permission from the company.

Although Mr. Ancona's motion refers to his request as a "clerical" matter, Mr. Ventura's attorney said he is considering whether to oppose the request. "Any effort to change an indictment after it's been returned is a serious matter," said defense attorney Marc Mezibov.

The charges against Mr. Ventura, a former legal counsel for Chiquita, stem from a grand jury investigation into allegations that The Cincinnati Enquirer used stolen voice-mail messages in articles it published in May about the company.

The newspaper later renounced the articles in a front-page apology, fired the lead reporter and paid Chiquita more than $10 million.

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