Linda Tripp Wiretap Trial
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Mrs. Tripp secretly tape-recorded telephone calls she had with Ms. Lewinsky, triggering the biggest crisis of Clinton's presidency. Maryland law forbids anyone from intercepting phone conversations without the other party's consent. Wiretapping is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense.
Linda Tripp, 49, said she began taping her phone calls because she was being pressured by Ms. Lewinsky to lie in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against the president. Ms. Lewinsky, wanted Mrs. Tripp to deny knowledge of a sexual relationship between Clinton and the former White House intern.
Ignorance of the law is a valid defense. But Linda Tripp testified for Starr that she taped several conversations in late 1997 even after an attorney told her it was illegal.
It was Linda Tripp's tape-recordings, which she supplied Starr's office under a grant of immunity from prosecution, that started the investigation of the president and led to his impeachment in the House.
FACT 4 11-20-99
``This investigation is saturated with testimony from the independent counsel's investigation,'' Tripp lawyer Joseph Murtha told the judge. The defense hopes to get the charges dismissed during the pretrial hearing. Assistant Maryland Attorney General Carolyn Henneman countered that Mrs. Tripp did not have immunity from prosecution on Jan. 16, 1998, when she gave Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr her secretly tape-recorded phone calls of Monica Lewinsky. The letter of immunity Starr's office wrote to protect Mrs. Tripp does not apply to the state of Maryland in its wiretap case, the prosecutor said, contending that Mrs. Tripp didn't get immunity in the state until a judge granted it Feb. 19, 1998. Outside the courthouse, Montanarelli said it would be extremely difficult to prosecute Mrs. Tripp if the judge rules that her immunity began on the earlier date, saying, ``All of the case is based on evidence'' that came to light between Jan. 16 and Feb. 19. Tripp lawyer David Irwin insisted that Mrs. Tripp's immunity began on the earlier date and said that prosecuting her after she cooperated with federal prosecutors would foster distrust of the government.
The Maryland case is limited to a single recording on Dec. 22, 1997, and Mrs. Tripp's allegedly illegal disclosure of it Jan. 17, 1998, to Newsweek magazine. Just before the taping, Mrs. Tripp was advised by her lawyer that it was illegal to secretly tape phone calls in Maryland. Maryland prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli must show that his case is not biased in any way by Mrs. Tripp's statements that she gave Starr's office under a limited grant of immunity from prosecution. A key issue is when the immunity began. Mrs. Tripp's lawyers maintain the starting date for her immunity was Jan. 16, 1998, when she received a letter of immunity from Starr's office in exchange for the tapes and her testimony. Montanarelli has argued that the federal immunity letter does not shield Mrs. Tripp from the state wiretapping charge. He says the immunity did not take effect until Feb. 19, 1998, when a federal judge signed an immunity order.
FACT 6 12-13-99
Linda Tripp was never guaranteed protection against state charges she violated Maryland's wiretap laws, an independent counsel's office lawyer said Monday. Investigators from the office of former independent counsel Kenneth Starr instead offered the former White House secretary a grant of immunity that they believed would make it difficult for any state prosecutor to use her recorded conversations as evidence in a criminal proceeding. "We told her the state of Maryland was a separate sovereign (from the federal government) and that they may ultimately be able to return an indictment against her," Stephen Binhak, a federal prosecutor attached to Starr's office, testified at the start of a hearing in Howard County Circuit Court that will determine whether Tripp should be tried on two criminal counts of violating the Maryland wiretap statute.
Former Starr prosecutor Jackie Bennett was the first witness at a pretrial hearing where Maryland authorities must demonstrate that their case against
Bennett testified that when he got a call from Howard County State's Attorney Marna McLendon, a Republican, on Jan. 26, 1998, "she indicated that she was receiving pressure that was becoming unbearable to her. There was a political campaign to put pressure on" the prosecutor's office to investigate Mrs. Tripp. Two weeks after calling Bennett, McLendon turned the case over to to Maryland state prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli, who eventually got the tapes under a federal court order.
FACT 8 12-14-99
A judge ruled today that Linda Tripp didn't have federal immunity when she turned over her secret tapes of Monica Lewinsky to Kenneth Starr's office. It was a victory for state prosecutors planning to try Mrs. Tripp on wiretapping charges.
FACT 9 12-15-99
Long before Linda Tripp told federal
investigators about the tapes that led to President Clinton's impeachment,
friends in her suburban Maryland neighborhood knew she was secretly recording
phone conversations with a woman named Monica who was having an affair with the
president. Four of those friends, all middle-aged women from the town of
Columbia, testified in Howard County Circuit Court on Wednesday at a hearing in
which Maryland authorities must prove, before they can proceed to trial, that
their evidence against Tripp was not derived from independent counsel Kenneth
Starr's investigation. Wednesday's testimony was important to the prosecution
because the press and Starr's investigators were largely unaware that Tripp's
friends and bridge partners knew what she was doing almost from the beginning.
They claim Tripp discussed the conversations, detailing Lewinsky's sexual
relationship with the president, with friends and bridge partners in November,
and then invited Lewinsky to a Christmas party at her home so they could meet
the former White House intern. Texas attorney T. Wesley Holmes, who helped
represent Paula Corbin Jones in her defunct sexual harassment suit against
Clinton, testified that his office also heard from Tripp in December 1997. But
not until Jan. 12, 1998, did Tripp contact Starr's office and agree to turn over
her tapes in exchange for a grant of federal immunity. Meanwhile, Kathleen Ann
Manwiller, who lives across the street from Tripp's family in a leafy
subdivision with street names such as Cricket Pass, Bright Plume and Misty Arch
Run, told state investigators that she watched her neighbor load batteries into
a home recording device one day and asked Tripp if it was legal in the state of
Maryland. Tripp's answer, a state prosecutor said in earlier testimony on
Tuesday, was that recording telephone conversations was not legal in the state
but that no one was ever prosecuted for doing so.