updated 12/13/2004 8:09:41 PM ET 2004-12-14T01:09:41

President Bush’s former New England campaign chairman pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he took part in the jamming of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote telephone lines on Election Day 2002.

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James Tobin, 44, was charged with conspiracy to commit telephone harassment and aiding and abetting. He could get up to five years in prison if convicted; his trial begins Feb. 1.

Neither Tobin nor his lawyers would comment afterward.

Tobin, who was Northeast political director of the Republican Senatorial Committee in 2002, was indicted Dec. 1 after an investigation by the Justice Department. He is free on his own recognizance.

Tobin stepped down as Bush’s regional campaign chairman Oct. 15, when state Democrats said in a separate civil lawsuit that they believed he took part in the phone-jamming scheme. When he was indicted two weeks ago, he said he would fight to clear his name.

Two other Republicans have pleaded guilty in the phone-jamming operation and are scheduled to be sentenced in February and March.

In 2002, six phone lines run by the Democrats and the Manchester firefighters union were tied up for 1½ hours by 800 computer-generated hang-up calls. Federal prosecutors said Tobin and other Republicans hired a company to make the calls to disrupt the organizations’ get-out-the-vote efforts.

Among the races affected by the jamming was the Senate contest between Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Rep. John E. Sununu. Sununu won by about 20,000 votes.

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