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Saturday, 6 May, 2000, 00:53 GMT 01:53 UK
Linda Tripp loses plea against trial
Linda tripp addressing journalists
Tripp's recordings led to Clinton's impeachment
A judge in the United States has ruled that Linda Tripp, the woman whose secret tape recordings of Monica Lewinsky started the impeachment process against President Clinton, must stand trial.

But the judge, in the state of Maryland, also ruled that much of Miss Lewinsky's evidence should be suppressed - putting a question mark over the viability of the prosecution.

Mrs Tripp, who recorded conversations with Miss Lewinsky about her affair with the president, is charged with taping a conversation and disclosing its contents to Newsweek magazine on 17 January 1998.

The recordings formed the basis of the investigation which led to the impeachment and trial of President Clinton.

Jail

Mrs Tripp, a former White House secretary, is the only major figure in the Clinton sex scandal to face criminal proceedings.


Monica Lewinsky
Monica Lewinsky to give limited evidence

If convicted, she could face 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

The Maryland judge, Diane Leasure, threw out Linda Tripp's plea that the indictments against her should be dismissed on the grounds that they depended on evidence she had given, while under immunity, to the Clinton investigation.

She ruled that Miss Lewinsky, a former White House intern, could testify in person about whether she agreed to let Miss Tripp tape-record their telephone conversations.

Evidence excluded

This is considered a crucial part of the prosecution's case against Linda Tripp, because Maryland law bans the intercepting of telephone conversations without both parties' consent.

But the judge also accused Monica Lewinsky of shaping her evidence and she disbelieved Miss Lewinsky's claim to remember the date of the relevant conversation - and excluded that evidence.

If the prosecution cannot prove when the conversation was recorded, it could be in trouble.

The state prosecutor, Stephen Montanarelli, told the BBC he will now have to re-assess whether he can prove the date with other witnesses. He said it was a difficult problem.

BBC Washington correspondent Paul Reynolds says the implication of his remarks was that if he decides the evidence is lacking, the case will have to be called off.

The trial is expected to begin in July.

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See also:

28 Sep 99 | Americas
Tripp sues White House
13 Feb 99 | FALL OUT
Tripp: It was worth it
14 Dec 99 | Americas
Way cleared for Tripp prosecution
10 Feb 99 | Tapes and Transcripts
The Monica tapes: Confiding in a friend
11 Sep 98 | Profiles
Linda Tripp: Friend and foe
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