- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Edmund A. Matricardi III, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, was indicted yesterday on charges of illegally intercepting two Democratic conference calls discussing the court battle over the state's legislative districts. He resigned hours later.
"He offered [his resignation because] he cares deeply about the party. We take these matters seriously, and Ed acted out of great loyalty to the party," said Gary Thomson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.
A Richmond Circuit Court grand jury found enough evidence to charge Mr. Matricardi with two counts of a Class 6 felony. The indictments state that Mr. Matricardi intercepted one phone call on March 22 and another three days later. Two other counts charge that Mr. Matricardi also tried to disclose the contents of the first phone call on March 22 and again on March 23.
"The state police investigation proceeded to a point to substantiate the original allegations, and the grand jury returned these indictments," said David Hicks, the Virginia commonwealth's attorney prosecuting the case.
Mr. Matricardi, 33, was released on his own recognizance yesterday but was ordered to remain in the state. If found guilty, he faces up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
The party released a statement last night saying Mr. Matricardi had done a good job as executive director for the past 3 years.
In his resignation letter, Mr. Matricardi said, "I love my country, my state and the Republican Party."
Mr. Matricardi declined to comment on his resignation or the charges and referred all calls to his attorney, Steven Benjamin.
After the indictment was handed up, Mr. Benjamin immediately filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that what Mr. Matricardi has been charged with is legal in Virginia.
"The commonwealth has been saying that Matricardi dialed into and listened and possibly recorded the calls, but under Virginia law, that is not illegal," Mr. Benjamin said.
A hearing on the motion for dismissal has been set for April 19.
But Mr. Hicks expressed confidence in the state's case.
"No prosecutor worth their salt would say they feel confident about a case, but I am confident that the evidence presented to the grand jury will come out during the trial," Mr. Hicks said. Because the investigation is ongoing, he declined to give specifics.
During the calls in question, state Democratic leaders including Gov. Mark R. Warner discussed Virginia's legislative districts, which were signed into law last year by Mr. Warner's Republican predecessor, Gov. James S. Gilmore III. Last month, a Roanoke County Circuit Court judge ruled that the districts were racially gerrymandered and unconstitutional, and ordered new districts to be drawn.
Republicans, led by Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, appealed the verdict.
Mr. Thomson said an interim executive director would be appointed in the coming weeks. He said that in the future party officials would not take part in conversations unless everyone was aware of their presence.
"My response to [how this will affect the party] is we have to make sure these allegations don't ever arise again," Mr. Thomson said. "Our participation will not be based only on an invite, but as an identified participant in the phone call as well."
Some Virginia politicians have faced similar accusations in the past.
In 1991, it was revealed that a 1988 conversation between Lt. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and a political supporter regarding U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb had been secretly recorded by members of Mr. Robb's staff. Mr. Wilder and his acquaintance were discussing news accounts of how Mr. Robb socialized with several people who later pleaded guilty to using or selling cocaine, and Mr. Robb's aides were convinced that Mr. Wilder was behind efforts to discredit the senator.
Three former members of Mr. Robb's staff pleaded guilty to charges for listening in on the Wilder phone conversation.
David K. McCloud, Mr. Robb's former chief of staff, was given four months of probation and fined $500 for violating federal campaign laws. He cooperated with investigators.
Robert L. Watson, former political director of the Robb-led Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, pleaded guilty to two criminal counts and was fined $10,000.
Steven Johnson, Mr. Robb's former press secretary, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and was fined $5,000.
Guy Taylor contributed to this report.

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