- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 2, 2003

A former leader of the Virginia Republican Party pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to illegal wiretapping, admitting that he secretly listened to a Democratic Party conference call, recorded it and later reported the contents to others.
Edmund A. Matricardi III pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer in Alexandria to one count of interception of a wire communication. Sentencing is scheduled for July 8, where under a plea agreement he faces three years' probation and a $10,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, whose office prosecuted the case, said Matricardi was executive director of the Virginia Republican Party when, on March 20 and March 21 last year, a Democratic official sent out an announcement by e-mail and fax to "Democratic General Assembly members" listing a dial-in telephone number and a participation code, which allowed access to a conference call involving members of the Joint Democratic Caucus.
Mr. McNulty said that on March 22, 2002, Matricardi was passed the telephone number and participation code, and he secretly listened to the Democratic conference call for approximately 2 hours and recorded it, revealing the contents of the call to others.
In a case investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David T. Maguire and Stephen W. Miller, Matricardi, 34, initially was charged with two counts of unlawful interception of a wire communication, two counts of unlawful disclosure of intercepted wire communications, and one count of aiding and abetting the interception of a wire communication.
The original charges carried a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.
The charges stemmed from two conference calls in which Democrats, including Gov. Mark Warner at times, discussed redrawing legislative districts after the 2000 census. On March 21, 2002, those invited to participate in the conference calls received an e-mail reminding them about the sensitive nature of the topics to be discussed.
"Only General Assembly members should attend or participate," the e-mail said. "There will be a roll call taken at the beginning. If you join after the conference call has started, please state your name so we will know you have joined."
Matricardi had said he was invited to participate because a Democratic official gave him the necessary access codes. However, Mr. McNulty said participants had an expectation of privacy, which Matricardi violated by not making his presence known.
"Federal law clearly prohibits the interception and disclosure of telephone conversations unless there is consent by a party to such conversation or when specifically authorized by a court order," he said.
Steven Benjamin, Matricardi's attorney, told reporters the plea agreement would allow his client to continue to provide for his wife and children. He says his client never denied listening to the call.
Matricardi served as executive director of the Virginia Republican Party from 1999 to April 2002, when he accepted a similar position with the South Carolina Republican Party. He resigned from that position in January after being charged in Virginia.

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