BOSTON (CN) – The chief of staff for former Sen. Max Cleland claims the Boston Globe and Martha’s Vineyard Gazette defamed him in false reports that he “has a criminal history that includes selling drugs and carjacking,” and that after arriving “in a stolen Chevrolet Suburban,” for a John Edwards fund raiser in 2007, he stole Edwards’ campaign material and personal stationery.
Michael Duga Jr. said the August 2007 newspaper articles falsely reported that he crashed the fund raiser by passing himself off as a campaign official, then “slipped into a back room” at the host’s home to steal the candidate’s belongings.
Duga, a graduate of New York University School of Law, claims he attended the fundraiser on behalf of Sen. Cleland and helped check in the paying guests.
He said this was a common occurrence, since the Edwards campaign “was being run on a ‘shoe-string’ budget and many unpaid volunteers worked on his campaign.”
Duga said Cleland had sent him there and asked him to report on whether the Georgia senator should endorse Edwards.
Duga claims he also had a professional relationship with Edwards’ then-wife Elizabeth, for whom he served as a personal driver from time to time.
“Any reasonable investigation would have revealed the truth, but the defendants did not act properly, but negligently and with reckless disregard of the truth,” Duga claims.
Duga said the allegedly stolen Chevrolet Suburban belonged to the wife of an Edwards staffer. He said he was never charged with stealing a vehicle or with driving a stolen vehicle.
Duga also sued Gazette reporter James Hickey and Globe reporter David Abel. He claims Abel reported: “Duga, who has a criminal record that includes selling drugs and carjacking, also allegedly had stolen campaign documents in his possession, police said.”
Duga claims Hickey cited information he said he had got from the Oak Bluffs Police Department in Florida. Dugas said that information is false, as he “has never been arrested in any county in Florida but for Broward County,” and that he’s never been arrested on any charges related to drug trafficking or carjacking.
“Both of those allegations are serious mischaracterizations of Mr. Dugas criminal history and are patently false,” the complaint states.
Duga seeks damages for defamation, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
He is represented in Suffolk County Court by George Deptula with Furman Gregory Deptula in Boston and Jonathan Kasen of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.