Farewell to Linda Tripp

Charges dropped: The most publicized crime against Maryland law cannot be proved.

May 25, 2000

WITH the dropping of state charges against Linda Tripp, she passes from history and need never trouble her fellow Marylanders again.

Some will wonder what this federal civil servant does at the Defense Department to earn a salary in a classification for which she does not appear qualified, and whether she will go on doing it. But that is a minor matter.

Linda Tripp is world famous for violating Maryland's law against recording a telephone call when one of the parties does not know it is being recorded. The impeachment of President Clinton was based on the content of the illegally taped conversations, and presidents are not lightly impeached. So it must be true.

Maryland Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli was right to seek indictment of Ms. Tripp after Howard County State's Attorney Marna McLendon found the case too political and hot to handle.

The state's imperative was not political, pro-Clinton or anti-impeachment. It was to uphold Maryland law. Were no attempt made in the most publicized violation of any Maryland law, it would have become a joke and enforcement would lapse.

Circuit Court Judge Diane O. Leasure ruled that evidence from Monica Lewinsky would depend on statements given by Ms. Tripp to the federal independent counsel under a grant of immunity, and was therefore inadmissible. Mr. Montanarelli concluded that without such evidence he could not prove the crime occurred.

Since the crime, admittedly not the most serious in the state's legal annals, received such notoriety, dismissal can only whet public cynicism about courts and technicalities. But this outcome is valid.

And, more, the investigation and indictment of Ms. Tripp are vindicated. Great publicity has been given to Maryland's law. The state is shown trying in good faith to enforce it.

The proper purpose of Mr. Montanarelli's grand jury investigation of Ms. Tripp is achieved.

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