Tripp's friends and former attorney testify before grand jury about tapes All are asked if they have any Lewinsky recordings

December 11, 1998|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Del Quentin Wilber and Erika Niedowski contributed to this article.

Three of Linda Tripp's friends and one of her former attorneys testified yesterday before the Howard County grand jury, as the investigation into her alleged illegal wiretapping continues.

According to sources familiar with the investigation, the three friends regularly played bridge with Tripp. They were asked whether they had tapes of Tripp's conversations with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The Tripp friends did not offer comment after they testified, and it is not known what they said to the grand jury.

James Moody, Tripp's former attorney, was questioned for about 20 minutes by State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli in the grand jury room at the Howard County Circuit Court in Ellicott City.

Moody later said that he invoked attorney-client privilege and answered only one of the 15 questions he was asked.

When prosecutors asked whether he had any tapes made by Tripp that have Lewinsky's voice on them, he said he told them no. "I simply told them I had nothing to give them," Moody said.

The other questions focused on conversations Moody might have had with Tripp last year.

"Lawyers can't function unless they can always protect the confidence of their clients," he said.

Since the grand jury began its investigation in August, several Radio Shack employees have testified regarding Tripp's purchase of recording equipment at The Mall in Columbia, and New York book agent Lucianne Goldberg and her son were asked about their conversations with Tripp.

Anthony J. Zaccagnini, one of Tripp's attorneys, said yesterday that Montanarelli "needs to cast a wide net" in his investigation.

"He's having difficulty collecting relevant and admissible evidence," he said. "Therefore, he has to look to avenues which ** seem unusual or a bit out of balance."

Joe Murtha, another of Tripp's attorneys, added: "Mr. Montanarelli is exhausting leads to prove his investigation. The day will come when he has exhausted his leads, and we hope he makes the right decision that no indictments will be pursued."

It is illegal in Maryland to record conversations on tape without both parties' consent. But ignorance of the law is a valid defense.

The maximum penalty is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Montanarelli is seeking evidence that Tripp knew the secret taping was illegal before she began in September 1997.

Pub Date: 12/11/98

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