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Tuesday, February 5
Prior arrest report checked on Gov. Bush's daughter

By Michael Van Sickler, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2002

TALLAHASSEE -- Reports of a possible previous offense have Leon County criminal justice officials reviewing a pre-trial release program offered to the governor's daughter, arrested Tuesday on a prescription fraud charge.

Noelle Bush, 24, was released from jail at 5:35 a.m. Tuesday without having to pay a $1,000 bond because she had a clean criminal background that made her eligible for a "pre-trial release" on the charge.

But with reports Wednesday of a 1995 shoplifting offense in Arizona involving a woman with the identical name and birth date as Bush, a Leon County official who supervises the pre-trial release program said Bush might not be eligible.

"If we find out you lied to us, you violated our first rule," Wanda Hunter said. "That rule is to be honest. If she lied, then she most likely would be taken into custody or she'd have to pay that bond. Because of the profile of this case, this will be checked out."

Hunter said she plans to review reports of an Oct. 28, 1995, misdemeanor citation of a Noelle Lucila Bush in Flagstaff, Ariz. Police and court reports show that this woman appeared before the city magistrate on Nov. 6 that year and paid a $305 fine for shoplifting underwear from a JCPenney store. The woman, then 18, listed her home address as 3511 Verde Valley Road, Sedona, Ariz.

The address is the same address as an exclusive boarding school, Verde Valley School, said Bob White, deputy chief of the Flagstaff Police Department.

An official with the school Wednesday said information about past or current students is not released. A former student, Alexander Derbes, an Oracle software employee in San Francisco, said Gov. Bush's daughter was a student at the school.

Aside from the identical name and birth date, records were not clear whether the woman in Arizona was the governor's daughter. Their Social Security numbers don't match.

Also Wednesday, more details surfaced regarding the driving record of the governor's daughter. She has seven speeding tickets, one for going 95 mph in a 65-mph zone in Palm Beach County in 1994. Bush got into three crashes, two in 2000, according to Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles records.

Gov. Bush referred all questions about the case to his daughter's lawyer, Peter Antonacci. Antonacci did not return several phone messages left Wednesday.

Antonacci is a lobbyist and a former top deputy to Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth. In August, the governor appointed Antonacci to the Florida Commission on Ethics. Formed in 1972, the commission serves as watchdog of elected officials and public employees.

Because Noelle Bush has an attorney, she won't have to make first appearance today as had been scheduled.

Antonacci once worked for the state attorney's office in Leon County, which will be the office that prosecutes the Bush case.

Owen McCaul, an assistant state attorney, said his office will look into the Arizona arrest to see whether it involved the governor's daughter. He said he doubts Noelle Bush will face the maximum jail time for the prescription fraud offense, which is five years in prison.

"We consider every fact made available to us," McCaul said. "If everything reported in the media is half true, then we have a presentable case."

Staff writers Jim Ash and Brian E. Crowley contributed to this story, which was supplemented by the Arizona Daily Sun.