Tripp's attorney moves to throw out indictments

He asserts state used immunized testimony

August 18, 1999|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

An attorney for Linda R. Tripp launched his first legal assault yesterday by filing a motion seeking to toss out the indictment of the Columbia resident on felony wiretapping charges because, he said, state prosecutors used her immunized testimony during their investigation.

That motion and several others were expected, but the length and detail of the arguments highlighted the unusual nature of the high-profile case.

"Sometimes you see boilerplate motions," said Joseph Murtha, a Tripp attorney. "These motions were all customized for Linda Tripp."

State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli said yesterday he hadn't received the motions and denied that his office used information gathered by federal sources.

"We will refute [that] when the time comes," Montanarelli said.

A Howard County grand jury indicted Tripp on July 30 on two felony counts charging that she illegally tape-recorded former White House intern Monica Lewinsky on Dec. 22, 1997, and then had her attorney disclose the contents to reporters at Newsweek magazine.

In motions filed yesterday, Murtha laid out his case to dismiss the indictment. In essence, he argues, state prosecutors cannot prove that Tripp illegally taped Lewinsky without using her federal testimony.

"[The] source of the information utilized by the State could only have been obtained as a result of information directly or indirectly derived from the federal grand jury proceeding," the motion says.

Murtha also argues that prosecutors must prove that their information came from sources other than the federal grand jury investigation. "There are very real issues contained in these motions," he said.

Murtha foreshadowed another legal skirmish by requesting Lewinsky's whereabouts during their conversations. Tripp taped the conversations on a machine attached to a telephone at her Columbia home, according to her federal testimony.

If Lewinsky was outside Maryland when Tripp is accused of taping her, Murtha said, the Maryland law might not apply.

In other motions, Murtha requested information relating to the tapes, how prosecutors knew they were made and whether state prosecutors contacted officials in the office of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's.

No judge has been assigned to hear the motions and no court date has been set, meaning the trial will likely be scheduled no earlier than this winter.

Tripp secretly taped Lewinsky numerous times and then gave the tapes to Starr under an agreement that protected her grand jury testimony and provided immunity from prosecution. Tripp's information led to the impeachment of President Clinton in December.

She admitted to a federal grand jury that she eventually learned that taping conversations without the other person's consent is illegal in Maryland but continued to do so. "I needed to protect myself," she testified.

If convicted, Tripp could be sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000 for each of the two counts in the indictment.

Montanarelli began his investigation of Tripp in July 1998, after being given the case by Howard County State's Attorney Marna McLendon.

Pub Date: 8/18/99

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