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Tripp Friends, Jones Lawyer Testify

December 15, 1999

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (AP) _ Linda Tripp’s bridge club partners and a lawyer for Paula Jones gave testimony Wednesday that was helpful to Maryland prosecutors who want to try Mrs. Tripp on wiretapping charges.

The witnesses admitted at a pretrial hearing that they’d learned some things about Monica Lewinsky’s relationship with President Clinton from newspapers or Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s impeachment report.

But they said the information they gave a state grand jury in the wiretapping probe was based solely on their conversations with Mrs. Tripp long before she started cooperating with Starr under a grant of limited immunity from prosecution.

Mrs. Tripp’s card-playing partners _ Cathy Sarkis, Cynthia Haus and Kathleen Manwiller _ said Mrs. Tripp told them in 1997 that she was taping her phone calls with Ms. Lewinsky.

T. Wesley Holmes, a former attorney for Mrs. Jones, who accused Clinton of sexual harassment, said he’d read Starr’s impeachment report. But he said he had a detailed memory of his conversations with Mrs. Tripp in 1997 in which she discussed Ms. Lewinsky’s affair with the president.

Mrs. Tripp’s friend Patricia Mancuso admitted she was confused about exactly when she saw the tape recorder Mrs. Tripp used to tape phone calls of Ms. Lewinsky.

``It’s kind of a blur isn’t it,″ said David Irwin, a lawyer for Mrs. Tripp.

``It gets confusing,″ Mancuso replied.

Sarkis admitted she couldn’t remember how she knew about some information in the Lewinsky affair _ whether from Mrs. Tripp or news reports.

``Your brain had been saturated with Ken Starr, the office of the independent counsel and all this stuff, right?″ asked Irwin. Sarkis agreed.

Mrs. Tripp and her lawyers expressed disappointment with the judge’s ruling Tuesday that she was not covered by immunity on Jan. 16, 1998, when she gave the Lewinsky tapes she had secretly made to Starr’s office.

Starr deputy Jackie Bennett signed an immunity letter that day covering Mrs. Tripp, but Howard County Circuit Judge Diane Leasure said Mrs. Tripp’s immunity didn’t begin until Feb. 19, 1998, when a federal judge issued a court order.

``Mrs. Tripp would never have voluntarily waived her constitutional rights,″ Mrs. Tripp’s lawyers said in a statement. ``It had been Mrs. Tripp’s understanding″ that it would be ``extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for the state to proceed in any way against her″ when Starr’s office signed the immunity letter on Jan. 16.

Two of Montanarelli’s investigators, James Cabezas and John Draa, testified they never read Starr’s impeachment report or its attachments, even though a copy of Mrs. Tripp’s immunized testimony was in Montanarelli’s office and there was no written policy telling them not to read it.

Draa said he duplicated copies of the Lewinsky tapes that were in the possession of the House Judiciary Committee, but said he simply stored them in an evidence vault without listening to them.

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