ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ A former worker at Los Alamos National Laboratory who took secret data home pleaded guilty Tuesday to negligent handling of classified documents, a misdemeanor.
Jessica Quintana, 23, entered her plea before U.S. Magistrate Lorenzo Garcia and was released on her own recognizance.
Police found the data _ on a portable computer storage drive and in about 200 pages of paper documents _ in October during a drug bust aimed at her roommate in her Los Alamos home.
Quintana's attorney, Stephen Aarons, said the archivist, who worked for a contractor, was converting documents to an electronic format and took them home to continue working. He said that the contractor had taken on too much work and that Quintana felt pressure to get it done.
``On the bright side, we've learned some lessons about this without actually compromising national security. ... No one has been permanently harmed here,'' Aarons said in an interview.
But Aarons also questioned security at the lab.
``To think you could just walk out with 200 pages and not get checked,'' he said.
Lab officials have said that none of the material was top secret, that it did not contain the most sensitive nuclear weapons information and that much of it was decades old.
Under an agreement with federal prosecutors, Quintana faces up to a year behind bars, a maximum fine of $100,000 and a year of supervised release. Or she could be sentenced to five years of probation, a route her attorney said he hopes a judge will take, given Quintana's lack of a criminal history.
Prosecutors said that they would not oppose that option, but that they would not agree to make a sentencing recommendation, Aarons said.
A sentencing date has not been set.
Quintana also has agreed to cooperate with the government. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, Norm Cairns, said he could not comment.
The drug bust involved a self-described meth addict who was renting a room in Quintana's home. He has been sentenced to probation for receiving stolen property and ordered to a rehabilitation program.