Tripp testified truthfully, lawyer says Starr raises possibility of tampering with tapes of Lewinsky, perjury

The Clinton Investigation

September 23, 1998|By Scott Shane and Susan Baer | Scott Shane and Susan Baer,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this article.

An attorney for Linda R. Tripp, whose tapes of her conversations with Monica Lewinsky helped set off the White House sex scandal, yesterday insisted that she testified "truthfully and completely" in the case and should not face perjury charges.

"We want to reiterate that everything Linda Tripp said before the grand jury was the truth," said the lawyer, Joseph Murtha.

Murtha's comments came in the wake of Monday's release of an appendix to Starr's report to the House Judiciary Committee that raised the possibility that Tripp could be prosecuted for perjury.

The appendix said an FBI analysis found "signs of duplication" on nine of 27 tapes turned over by Tripp to Starr's office. Because Tripp told the grand jury all the tapes were originals, the Starr report said, the FBI examination raised the possibility that she had lied.

"If Ms. Tripp duplicated any tapes herself or knew of their duplication, then she has lied under oath before the grand jury and in a deposition," the report said. "The [Office of Independent Counsel] continues to investigate this matter."

Murtha said that in his last exchange with Starr's office, about two weeks ago, "we were told she was not a target of a criminal investigation." He said he has not been informed since then of any change in her status.

Because Tripp, a Columbia resident, remains under investigation the Maryland State Prosecutor for a possible violation of the state's wiretap laws, Murtha said he could not comment in detail on any issue involving taping.

"Linda's taken a real beating, with the state investigation and now this," he said.

He noted that Starr's report cites only laboratory tests, which can be fallible.

"It's all based on forensic analysis and obviously there have been occasions where the FBI's analyses have been flawed," he said.

An investigation of the FBI laboratory by the U.S. Justice Department Inspector General last year found evidence of shoddy work and erroneous testimony in scores of cases. FBI officials have made significant changes and vowed to correct the weaknesses.

Tripp confidante Lucianne Goldberg, a New York book agent, said yesterday that Tripp did not know how to duplicate tapes and noted that other people -- Tripp's two previous lawyers -- had access to the tapes before they were turned over to Starr.

"Somebody copied those tapes and it wasn't Linda," Goldberg said.

Murtha said he has requested an opportunity to review Tripp's grand jury testimony before it is released by the House Judiciary Committee, possibly next week. He has not received an answer, he said.

"We have a duty to see what's going to be disseminated to the public," he said.

Tripp continues to be paid for her $88,000-a-year Pentagon public relations job, but at the request of her supervisors she has not been reporting to the office, Murtha said. He said she has asked to return to work but so far has not received permission.

A spokesman for the Maryland State Prosecutor, Stephen Montanarelli, said yesterday the state investigation of Tripp is continuing.

The spokesman, Gavin Patashnick, said the term of the Howard County grand jury has been extended to finish the case. The grand jury's usual six-month term was to expire Monday, but it will continue to meet to hear evidence in the Tripp taping case, he said.

"That's the only case they'll be doing," he said.

A new grand jury will handle other Howard County cases, he said.

Montanarelli contacted Goldberg last week, requesting an opportunity to come to New York to talk to her and asking her to testify before the Howard County grand jury, Goldberg said.

But she said yesterday that she declined to cooperate with Montanarelli's investigation, and would only testify under subpoena. She also said she planned to be out of the country for most of October, and thought it would be difficult for the state prosecutor to get a subpoena to her.

Pub Date: 9/23/98

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