Lewinsky Testimony on Tripp Limited

Friday, May 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (AP) — A Maryland judge on Friday limited the testimony Monica Lewinsky can give in the state wiretapping case against her one-time friend, Linda Tripp, but refused to throw out the case.

Howard County Circuit Judge Diane Leasure ruled that Lewinsky can testify about whether she gave Tripp consent to tape record their conversations — considered a crucial part of the prosecution's case. But she said Lewinsky cannot testify about the date of the tape recording that is central to the case.

Tripp is scheduled to go to trial in July.

Leasure ruled that prosecutors had not tainted the case because they did not let the grand jury hear testimony protected by Tripp's immunity deal with Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. She said the testimony of Lewinsky and another witness, Mary Catherine Freidrich, was derived from immunized testimony and had to be suppressed.

``If the government has not presented the grand jury with immunized testimony but has presented evidence obtained through the use of such testimony, the indictment should not be dismissed, but the court should suppress the evidence,'' the 42-page decision stated.

``There is no question that Ms. Lewinsky, perhaps more so than any other ... state witnesses, had substantial exposure to Ms. Tripp's immunized testimony and information that came from Ms. Tripp as a result of her cooperation with'' Starr's prosecutors, the judge wrote. ``The defense argues that Ms. Lewinsky is 'bathed in impermissible taint.' The court agrees.''

Tripp received a federal grant of immunity from prosecution after she gave Starr tapes of the White House intern's conversations with President Clinton. Those tapes helped lead to impeachment proceedings against the president.

Lewinsky's testimony on whether she gave consent to be taped is crucial to proving that Tripp broke the Maryland law, and the judge allowed that testimony to remain. However, Lewinsky will not be allowed to testify about the date of the crucial telephone conversation that prompted the charge against Tripp

A grand jury indicted Tripp on July 30 on two counts of breaking the state's wiretapping law.

The tapes, recorded from the living room of Tripp's Columbia home, triggered Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation into Lewinsky's affair with President Clinton.

Maryland law prohibits intercepting telephone conversations without both parties' consent. Prosecutors believe Tripp's secret recording of her own conversations with Lewinsky constituted interception.

If convicted, Tripp could face 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. She is the only major figure in the Clinton sex scandal to face criminal charges.

Defense attorneys argued the judge should dismiss the case because it was tainted by evidence from the Starr investigation. They said Lewinsky's testimony was partially derived from Tripp's immunized testimony, and that prosecutors made no attempt to shield the Maryland grand jurors from news of the Starr Report.

Lewinsky testified last December that she independently recalled the date of the crucial telephone conversation. But Lewinsky told prosecutors in writing in August 1998 that the information came from Tripp's immunized statements to Starr.

Tripp attorneys contend Lewinsky changed her testimony to help prosecutors and to seek revenge against Tripp.

Freidrich testified that Tripp had been secretly taping telephone conversations, testimony matched by other witnesses. The judge threw out that testimony.


On the Net:

Court system: http://www.courts.state.md.us/howard/index.html

Tripp Legal Defense Fund site: http://www.lindatripp.com