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FORMER CHIQUITA ATTORNEY CHARGED IN VOICE-MAIL CASE

A former attorney for Chiquita Brands International has pleaded innocent to charges that he stole company voice-mail messages.

George Ventura was indicted by the grand jury investigating whether reporter Mike Gallagher, formerly of the Cincinnati Enquirer, used stolen voice-mail messages in articles published in May that questioned Chiquita's business practices.

The articles, which were later retracted by the newspaper, stated that a "high-ranking Chiquita executive" provided tapes of the voice-mail messages.

Ventura, Chiquita's legal counsel in Honduras from 1991 to 1996, pleaded innocent Friday to five counts of unlawful interception of communications and five counts of unauthorized access to computer systems. If convicted, he could face up to 12 1/2 years in prison.

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