Prosecutor asks U.S. judge for Tripp tapes

State office seeking recordings used in investigation of Clinton

May 29, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Seeking access to tapes Linda R. Tripp made of her conversations with Monica Lewinsky, the state prosecutor's office has filed a request for them with the judge who oversaw the federal grand jury investigation, sources familiar with the case said yesterday.

The request shows the weakness of the state's case against Tripp, one of her lawyers said.

"It disturbs us that they would have to use information from the independent counsel," said the lawyer, Joseph Murtha. "It appears they have not been satisfied with the information they have been able to collect independently."

The prosecutor's office declined to comment on the request.

State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli has been trying since July to build a case against Tripp for allegedly taping Lewinsky without her consent, a violation of state law. Tripp, who lives in Columbia, talked with Lewinsky by phone from her home.

Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel, used tapes of the conversations to help build his investigation of President Clinton, which led to Clinton's impeachment. For her cooperation, Tripp received immunity from prosecution based on those tapes, a deal that has hampered Montanarelli's investigation.

The case, which legal experts have said is difficult to prosecute, prove, has suffered setbacks, most recently on Feb. 25 when a Howard County judge said Tripp's former attorney, James Moody, did not have to answer prosecutors' questions.

Sources said Montanarelli's office filed the request for access to the tapes with U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, who oversaw the grand jury in Starr's investigation.

The maximum penalty for violating the state wiretapping law is five years in prison or a $10,000 fine.

Pub Date: 5/29/99

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