Prosecutor Rejects Tripp Request for Evidence
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 27, 1999; Page B2 Maryland State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli refused yesterday to turn over any evidence to Linda R. Tripp's defense attorneys and declined to respond to arguments that he would be unable to make the wiretapping case against her without using evidence she provided under a federal grant of immunity.
Montanarelli's remarks were contained in three short responses he filed in Howard County Circuit Court in answer to a flurry of requests filed last week by Tripp's attorneys. Tripp's attorneys asked for all the evidence the state prosecutor had obtained during his 13-month investigation.
"They are not entitled to all our evidence," Montanarelli said in a telephone interview yesterday. "We think the indictment is understandable. It couldn't be in any plainer language."
Montanarelli also said that before going to trial, he would not turn over grand jury transcripts sought by a Tripp attorney, Joseph Murtha, unless a judge ordered him to do so.
The state prosecutor also made requests of the Tripp legal team, asking that they furnish him with speech and writing samples from Tripp, a list of experts they intend to call and a list of other witnesses.
Tripp was indicted by a Howard County grand jury July 30. She is charged with illegally taping a phone conversation with Monica S. Lewinsky on Dec. 22, 1997, and illegally directing her attorney to disclose its contents to Newsweek magazine. Tapes that Tripp provided to a special prosecutor were the basis for the investigation into President Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern.
No judge has been assigned to Tripp's case, and no trial date has been set. If convicted, Tripp could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each charge.
"Grand jury transcripts do not actually have to be turned over until the witness takes the stand," Montanarelli said. "They'll get them when the judge orders us to turn them over."
Montanarelli did provide Murtha with a list of witnesses that he plans to call at trial but didn't make the list public.
Sources close to the investigation said yesterday that Lewinsky is on the witness list, a move Murtha said he would welcome as of possible help to his client.
"I think she will have information that is relevant to our defense," Murtha said.
Lewinsky has appeared before a grand jury investigating her relations with Clinton and before the Senate, via videotape. But she has not been cross-examined.
In his responses, Montanarelli disclosed that he interviewed Lewinsky on June 16 and that she identified her voice and that of Tripp on a tape.
Sources have said that Lewinsky also told Montanarelli that she did not give Tripp permission to tape their phone talks. All three are elements essential to proving the wiretapping charge.
But the documents filed by Montanarelli gave no information as to whether he actually has a copy of the Dec. 22, 1997, conversation.
Murtha contends that any copy of the audio tape would have to come from tape that Tripp herself turned over to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. Tripp provided the tapes to Starr in exchange for federal immunity.