Tripp lawyers launch attack

Defense says state's evidence protected by immunity deal

November 17, 1999|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Linda R. Tripp's lawyers launched a broad attack yesterday on evidence gathered by state prosecutors during their investigation of the Columbia resident's secretive tape recording, saying the evidence was protected by her federal immunity deal.

With a motions hearing scheduled Friday, Tripp's attorneys are seeking to have a judge throw out the indictment of Tripp or, at minimum, conduct a hearing on the state's evidence.

In a motion filed in Howard Circuit Court that included an affidavit from Tripp, her attorneys used an analogy of a nuclear explosion and its radioactive after-effects to demonstrate their point.

"Similarly, the investigation of the State Prosecutor radiates with information and material which has been exposed to the impermissible influence of the federal grand jury proceeding," they wrote. They were referring to Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr's investigation, which Tripp aided.

Tripp was indicted in July on two counts of illegally tape recording a conversation with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and then disclosing the tape's contents to Newsweek magazine.

State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli declined to comment yesterday evening, noting pending motions. State prosecutors have said they did not use any of Tripp's immunized testimony during their inquiry.

In her affidavit, Tripp said she would not have turned over the tapes or other evidence without a grant of immunity. In another affidavit, Lucianne Goldberg, a literary agent and Tripp confidant, says that Montanarelli called her and cited passages from a Newsweek reporter's book about the scandal that led to President Clinton's impeachment in December.

Tripp's attorneys argue that the reporter's book used Tripp's immunized testimony, and that Montanarelli read the book, tainting his investigation.

Tripp's lawyers also claim that state prosecutors were able to verify the date of the single tape recording described in the indictment because Tripp helped federal authorities during their investigation of the president. The date of the tape is crucial, they argue, because prosecutors will have to prove that Tripp knowingly violated Maryland's wire-tapping statute.

Tripp has admitted before a federal grand jury that she learned it was illegal to tape conversations in Maryland without others' consent but continued to do so. She claimed she made the tapes to protect herself.

Tripp's lawyers also argue that a key witness, Lewinsky, saw and listened to the tape recording while she was cooperating with federal authorities.

"Ms. Lewinsky was clearly bathed in the impermissible taint of the immunized information by the time she appeared in the offices of the State Prosecutor," the motion says.

Tripp's lawyers further contend that the availability of Starr's report to Congress might have contaminated the Howard County grand jury investigating Tripp. Her lawyers also criticized prosecutors for not ignoring information regarding the Clinton investigation that was widely publicized.

Pub Date: 11/17/99

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