Prosecutors ask court to force ex-lawyer for Tripp to comply

January 29, 1999|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Dissatisfied with grand jury testimony by former Linda R. Tripp attorney James Moody, Maryland prosecutors are asking a Howard County Circuit Court judge to force him to answer their questions.

State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli filed the motion Jan. 22 and Moody received it Wednesday, Moody said yesterday. Judge James B. Dudley is expected to hear arguments Feb. 25, Moody said.

Moody appeared Dec. 10 before the Howard County grand jury investigating whether Tripp, who lives in Columbia, illegally taped conversations with Monica Lewinsky about the former White House intern's affair with President Clinton.

During that testimony, Moody said, he asserted attorney-client privilege and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked about the existence of audiotapes, their whereabouts and whether he played them for others.

Moody, who said state prosecutors are hoping that Dudley will order him to answer those questions, criticized the prosecutors' investigation: "If they had a case against Tripp, they wouldn't bother with me."

Montanarelli declined to comment about specifics in the case but did say that "nothing is going to happen in the immediate future."

Said Moody, "I don't think it's appropriate for the state to turn someone's lawyer into a tool for the prosecution."

Tripp's current lawyer, Joe Murtha, said he would help Moody.

"We believe he should not be forced" to answer the questions, Murtha said yesterday. "I will be filing something in response."

Montanarelli and his investigators have an uphill battle proving Tripp illegally taped Lewinsky because they can't use Tripp's statements to Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr, who gave her immunity from prosecution in the case against Clinton.

It is illegal in Maryland for a person to audiotape a conversation without the other person's consent.

Montanarelli is seeking evidence that Tripp knew the secret taping was illegal when she started doing it.

Pub Date: 1/29/99

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