ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Linda Tripp on Friday won her bid for a pretrial hearing in her wiretapping case amid questions about whether prosecutors obtained evidence from statements she had given under immunity from prosecution.
Judge Diane Leasure said that Tripp is entitled to the hearing before her trial starts, rather than after it ends, as state prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli had requested.
"This investigation is saturated with testimony from the independent counsel's investigation," Tripp lawyer Joseph Murtha told the judge. The defense hopes to get the charges dismissed during the pretrial hearing.
Assistant Maryland Atty. Gen. Carolyn Henneman countered that Tripp did not have immunity from prosecution on Jan. 16, 1998, when she gave independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr her secretly tape-recorded phone calls of Monica S. Lewinsky.
The letter of immunity Starr's office wrote to protect Tripp does not apply to the state of Maryland in its wiretap case, the prosecutor said, contending that Tripp didn't get immunity in the state until a judge granted it Feb. 19, 1998.
Outside the courthouse, Montanarelli said it would be extremely difficult to prosecute Tripp if the judge rules that her immunity began on the earlier date, saying, "All of the case is based on evidence" that came to light from Jan. 16 to Feb. 19, 1998.