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Md. Prosecutor's Statement
On Tripp Probe

Washingtonpost.com
Thursday, July 23, 1998

The following is the full text of a press release issued by Maryland State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli on July 22, denying a political motive for his investigation into whether Linda Tripp's tapes of Monica Lewinsky's conversations were made illegally. For more information, see the Post story.

Maryland Delegate Robert L. Flanagan has filed a Public Information Act request for my office to disclose all documents that relate to or refer to any communications from elected officials, officials of the Glendening administration, and any other persons who have communicated with us, whether directly or indirectly, to encourage me or question me regarding whether and when I might be investigating or taking any other action regarding Linda Tripp.

Delegate Flanagan has asked me to interpret his request in the spirit it is intended to promote a full public airing of all communications with my office by "politicians of all stripes" relating to the Linda Tripp matter. I have accepted his request in that spirit. I will answer his request in writing. My answer will contain the following disclosures of communications with public officials, which I am making to the public in order that the public may know that my decision to investigate the Tripp case was not due to political influence of any kind:

January 25, 1998 through February 9, 1998  In a number of telephone conversations State’s Attorney Marna McLendon and I discussed the allegations against Ms. Tripp, recent cases on electronic surveillance and my views on deferring to the Office of Independent Counsel. I advised her to defer. We also discussed referring the allegations to my office in order to remove allegations of political conflicts of interest. On January 30, 1998 Mrs. McLendon received a letter signed by 49 delegates urging her to prosecute Ms. Tripp. She forwarded a copy of the letter to me. I agreed to accept the case on the basis that it involved multi-jurisdictional offenses.
February 5, 1998: Received call from Assistant Attorney General Jack Schwartz regarding my jurisdiction to investigate the Tripp case. The Attorney General is the State Prosecutor’s legal advisor on jurisdictional matters. We discussed the multi-jurisdictional aspects of the allegations.
February 10, 1998: Received letter from Mrs. McLendon referring case to my office. Enclosed with the letter was a copy of her press release announcing the referral and her reasons and a copy of a letter from Ms. Tripp’s attorneys.
February 11, 1998: Received call from Delegate Gilbert Genn urging me to undertake the investigation of Ms. Tripp. I told him that I would defer to the Office of Independent Counsel for a reasonable time. He did not attempt to influence me in my decision not to begin the investigation at that time.
February 23, 1998: Delegate David Valderama called to request that I appear on his television program on Channel 58 to discuss the State Public Ethics law. I told him that John O’Donnell, Executive Director of the Public Ethics Commission, is better qualified than I am. He said that he had asked O’Donnell who was unavailable. I accepted.
February 28, 1998: I appeared on Delegate Valderama’s program with Delegates Pauline Menes and Dana Dembrow. During the program I was asked about my decision to defer the Tripp investigation. I explained that the federal investigation seemed to be more important at that time and I did not want to interfere, but that eventually I would investigate and report my findings to the State’s Attorney. The delegates did not attempt to influence me in any manner.
March 2, 1998: Received letter from State Senator Leo Green on behalf of a constituent requesting a status report on the Tripp matter. At that time and to date I have received numerous requests from private citizens requesting information on the Tripp case. Since I and my staff prepare our correspondence on our computers in order to relieve the one secretary who performs such duties, I decided that I could not answer the numerous requests from throughout the country and perform effectively the investigative duties of my office. However, I have on occasion answered telephone calls from private citizens asking why I was not investigating the Tripp case. I regret that I did not answer the Senator’s letter. I will do so now that the status has changed from an inactive to an active investigation.
March 12, 1998: Delegate Pauline Menes’ office had sent a videotape of the television program of February 28, to me. I sent a letter to Delegate Menes thanking her and returning the tape. I do not have a copy of the videotape.
June 19, 1998: I called Delegate Leon Billings regarding a matter which he had referred to my office which has nothing to do with the Tripp case. At the conclusion of our discussion I noted that he had signed the delegates’ letter sent to Mrs. McLendon in January and that I had deferred the investigation, but I had not declined to investigate the Tripp matter. He asked me when I would start the investigation and I replied, "when it is appropriate". He did not attempt to influence me in any manner.

During the above period I had other communications with Mrs. McLendon regarding the case law on electronic surveillance, correspondence and calls which she received concerning her decision to refer the matter to me and the scheduling and security of the grand jury. At no time did she attempt to influence me as to when we would begin our investigation or as to how to conduct it.

The above disclosures constitute the only communications which I have received concerning the Tripp case from public officials. No one from the Clinton administration has tried to contact my office. I do not know anyone in the Clinton administration. No one from the Glendening administration has tried to contact my office. I met the Governor once at a social function honoring Judge Irma S. Raker. I talked to him on one occasion concerning an allegation of illegal contributions to his 1994 campaign. This had nothing to do with the Tripp case and the conversation took place before the Tripp matter became known. No federal official has contacted my office except for a member of the staff of the Office of Independent Counsel who called in February when it was announced that the investigation of Ms. Tripp had been referred to me. I told him that we were deferring to his office.

I know the two Senators from Maryland but I have neither seen nor talked to them for several years. I do not know any of the Congressional Representatives except one who referred a matter to my office several years ago. No one from Congress or a member of their staffs have contacted my office regarding the Tripp case.

As to statements made by Ms. Tripp’s attorneys that I had told them that I was receiving pressure to investigate, they are in error. I may have told them that I had received the letter from the 49 delegates without specifying that it had been forwarded to me by Mrs. McLendon. If they interpreted that to mean that I was being influenced, they are wrong.

I have met with Ms. Tripp’s attorneys on two occasions, February 16 and June 8, 1998. On both occasions they asked me to decline the investigation and I told them that the matter would be investigated by my office without specifying a date. I assume that they related that to their client so that it should not have surprised Ms. Tripp or intimidated her when I announced the grand jury investigation. If it did, then I attribute it to poor timing on my part. There was no malice intended. Investigations are initiated based on the workload of the office, priorities and other factors, not the wishes of the subjects of the investigation.

As to my political motivations, I have none. I intend to serve my remaining years as a public official as State Prosecutor. On May 18, 1998, in accordance with the State Prosecutor’s statute, I filed an affidavit with the State Prosecutor Selection and Disabilities Commission. The affidavit states that I will not accept appointment or be a candidate for any state or local office during my service as State Prosecutor and for a three-year period after I last serve as State Prosecutor.

STEPHEN MONTANARELLI

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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