- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

RICHMOND A close aide to Republican House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. is being investigated in the eavesdropping of a Democratic conference call, a source close to the investigation said yesterday.

State police are reviewing a list of telephone numbers used to access a March 25 conference call on which Gov. Mark R. Warner, top legislators, party officials and their attorneys discussed strategy in a lawsuit challenging the Republican-authored legislative redistricting plan of 2001, the source told the Associated Press.

Democratic Party and government officials who did not want to be identified said one of the numbers on the call was that of a cellular telephone belonging to Claudia Tucker, the top aide to Mr. Wilkins.

Miss Tucker said yesterday she has not been questioned or subpoeaned in the case.

"This is far more about rumor than about fact. People who have known me have known me to be trustworthy and ethical," she said in an interview outside the Capitol.

She said she has hired Anthony Troy, a former Virginia attorney general, to represent her in the matter and referred reporters to Mr. Troy for further comment.

"I find that there is a rumor mill abounding that exceeds the bounds of this investigation," Mr. Troy said in a telephone interview.

Edmund A. Matricardi III, former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, was indicted last week on four felony charges of illegally intercepting the conference calls, which were made March 22 and March 25.

Mr. Matricardi is charged in two indictments with illegal wire interception, and two other charges that he recorded and tried to use the contents of the call in an unspecified manner. He was released without bail but was barred from leaving Virginia.

Several days ago, state police began checking the telephone numbers obtained from the company that linked up about 30 people for the conference call, according to Democratic legislators.

The lawmakers returned to Richmond yesterday for the one-day veto override session. Talk of the investigation quickly spread through the Capitol.

State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, Arlington Democrat, said state police investigators met Tuesday with Democratic Caucus members and asked them to fill out forms identifying phone numbers they used to join the call, and to identify any other people they invited to participate.

"The conference call company gave the state police a list of all the numbers. Some of the numbers on the list remain unaccounted for," Mrs. Whipple said.

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