- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

RICHMOND Gov. Mark R. Warner yesterday said he believed he was talking confidentially to fellow Democratic leaders on March 22 during a telephone conference call that apparently was monitored by Virginia's top Republican staff operative.
In his first public comment about the criminal-eavesdropping investigation of Republican Executive Director Edmund A. Matricardi III, Mr. Warner said he and his staff will be more careful about how they communicate.
"I obviously felt that the conversation I took part in last Friday a week ago was a private conversation, but I'm going to continue to communicate with friends and advisers and colleagues about how we move this administration forward," Mr. Warner said.
Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney David Hicks yesterday said he did not expect to make an announcement on the case for days, perhaps not until Monday.
State Police Superintendent Col. W. Gerald Massengill said that since the investigation began last week, two investigators have worked on the case full time, and often as many as five have been involved in the case, which has stunned top statewide officials of both parties.
Officers confiscated a computer and small tape recorder from Mr. Matricardi's office at the state Republican offices last week.
Col. Massengill said he and Mr. Hicks planned to meet yesterday afternoon at state police headquarters to discuss the case.
Mr. Matricardi, 33, the Republican Party's staff boss since 1999, and his attorney, Steven Benjamin, spent Monday talking to investigators.
Mr. Hicks and Col. Massengill declined to discuss specifics of the case, but said Mr. Matricardi had cooperated with investigators.
The governor said nothing about the eavesdropping case while vacationing with his family in Colorado last week, and he made no mention of it in an address to a conference on statewide terrorism preparedness his first public appearance since his return.
In comments to reporters afterward, Mr. Warner condemned the unauthorized monitoring of conference calls and said he believed it was an isolated incident in Virginia politics.
"We've seen actions in politics over the years that continue to disappoint, but these are not the tactics that belong in the political process," the governor said.
He said he knew of no such tactics when he was chairman of the state Democratic Party in the early 1990s.
He also defended Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore's handling of the case. Mr. Kilgore is a Republican.
"My understanding is that the attorney general was notified that there was potential misconduct, took the appropriate action and notified the state police, and I think that started this whole investigation," Mr. Warner said.
State Democratic Chairman Larry Framme and House Democratic leader Franklin P. Hall of Richmond said last week Mr. Kilgore's office should bow out of a politically charged court case over legislative redistricting. They said Mr. Kilgore's office had access to Democratic legal strategy in the redistricting case overheard during the conference call.
A circuit court judge in Salem last month ruled that the 2001 Republican-drawn legislative-redistricting plan was racially gerrymandered and thus unconsti- tutional.
Mr. Kilgore and the Republicans want the state Supreme Court to overturn Judge Richard Pattisall's decision.
Mr. Warner and the Democrats want the high court to affirm it, forcing the legislature to redraw the lines and hold new elections for a House of Delegates now nearly two-thirds Republican.


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