- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2002

RICHMOND A Richmond Circuit Court judge denied a motion yesterday to dismiss the case against Edmund A. Matricardi III, the former executive director of the Virginia Republican Party who has been charged with illegally intercepting two Democratic conference calls.
Judge Robert W. Duling did not accept the defendant's contention that he was acting "in the normal course of business" when he phoned in on two Democratic conference calls last month. He is reported to have taped the conversations.
Mr. Matricardi, 33, was indicted last week by a Richmond grand jury on two counts of illegal wire interception and two counts of attempting to use the contents. If convicted on all counts, he would face a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Steven Benjamin, Mr. Matricardi's attorney, argued that there was nothing illegal in his client's use of his office phone at the Virginia Republican Party headquarters. Mr. Benjamin cited the precedent set by the Virginia Supreme Court's 1978 ruling in Cogdill v. Virginia that said a telephone alone could not be perceived as an intercepting device.
"The question of law is whether or not the use of a telephone is the use of an interception device [as dictated by] Virginia law," Mr. Benjamin said. In Cogdill, the court said that "using a telephone like a telephone as opposed to going up a pole and slicing it" was not wiretapping and that the "commonwealth's argument today is to ask the judge to say the Virginia Supreme Court was wrong."
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney William Dinkin argued that Mr. Benjamin was not raising issues involving constitutional concerns as these hearings are supposed to.
Instead, Mr. Dinkin said, Mr. Benjamin's concerns were factual, which is what the purpose of a trial would be.
The hearing lasted about 90 minutes. Mr. Matricardi, who resigned last week within hours of his indictment, sat silent throughout and did not comment afterward.
The charges against Mr. Matricardi relate to two conference calls held by top Democratic officials, including Gov. Mark R. Warner. Democrats were discussing strategy for the state's legislative districts, which were thrown out by a Roanoke County Circuit Court judge who ruled that the district lines were racially gerrymandered.
After Judge Duling's decision yesterday, both sides said they expected a long court battle.
"This is going to go on and on and on," Mr. Dinkin said outside the courtroom.
Mr. Benjamin requested and was granted another motion hearing to bring additional evidence forward. Mr. Benjamin said he plans to introduce evidence that Mr. Matricardi was invited to participate, which would clear him of any wire-interception charges, he said. That hearing is scheduled for May 14.

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