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Tobin asks court to dismiss phone jamming charges

CONCORD, N.H. --A former national Republican Party official will stand trial on charges he conspired to jam Democratic get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002, a federal judge said Thursday.

James Tobin of Bangor Maine sought dismissal of conspiracy charges, arguing the government's allegations were insufficient. Judge Steven McAuliffe denied those motions, but said he would consider a motion to dismiss another charge, relating to violating others' right to vote. A trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 6.

Tobin's lawyers argued the allegations against their client may have prevented some from mustering voters, but did not amount to blocking voters from their right to cast a ballot, a distinction McAuliffe agreed to mull over.

Racially motivated beatings, destroying, altering, falsifying and refusing to count ballots had been decreed by other courts as violations of the right to vote, but jamming phone lines to prospective voters has not, lawyer Tobin Romero said Thursday.

"We're way over here, We're way far outside," he said.

Prosecutors countered that the intent to blocking voters outweighed the means of deterring them.

"There is no reason to do it if it isn't to keep someone from voting," said prosecutor Nicholas Marsh.

Tobin, his lawyers and prosecutors declined to talk to reporters after the hearing in U.S. District Court.

Two of Tobin's GOP associates, former New Hampshire Republican chairman Chuck McGee, and consultant Allen Raymond, have already pleaded guilty to phone-jamming conspiracy charges. Both were fined and sentenced to several months in prison; both have cooperated with investigators.

In 2002, Tobin served as political director of the national committee working get Republican senators elected. He is accused of putting McGee in touch with Raymond, then president of Alexandria, Va.-based GOP Marketplace LLC, to set up the phone jamming plot. Tobin last year served as President Bush's 2004 New England campaign chairman, but resigned last October after the phone jamming accusations surfaced.

Tobin, McGee, Raymond and another former GOP official face a related civil suit in Hillsborough County Superior Court. Democrats are suing them in an attempt to get more information about the phone jamming plan.

Hundreds of computer generated hang-up calls paralyzed Democratic get-out-the-vote and ride-to-the-polls phone lines in several New Hampshire cities for more than an hour on Nov. 5, 2002, the year of a closely watched Senate race won by Republican John Sununu against Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. The hang-up calls also affected a nonpartisan line operated by Manchester's firefighter's union.

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