- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

RICHMOND A former leader of the Virginia Republican Party was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury on charges of eavesdropping on Democrats in the General Assembly.
Edmund A. Matricardi III, former executive director of the state's Republican Party, was charged with five counts of wiretapping, which carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines, said Paul McNulty, U.S. attorney for Virginia's Eastern District.
"He knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully intercepted a wire communication in violation of federal law," Mr. McNulty said.
No trial date was set.
Mr. Matricardi, 34, resigned last year, then quit yesterday as operations director for the South Carolina Republican Party. He was not in court yesterday and has maintained his innocence since the charges surfaced last spring.
"Ed Matricardi will be pleading not guilty to the charges," said his attorney, Steven Benjamin.
The charges against Mr. Matricardi stem from two conference calls in which Democrats, including Gov. Mark R. Warner at times, discussed redrawing legislative districts following the 2000 census.
Mr. Warner has declined to comment until after the court proceedings.
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 stated. "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."
Mr. Matricardi has 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 Mr. 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 yesterday.
The five charges against Mr. Matricardi are:
Listening to a private call on March 22 without announcing his presence.
Listening to a private call on March 25 without announcing his presence.
Taping the March 22 call.
Distributing the contents of the March 22 call to staffers in the office of Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore.
Providing Claudia D. Tucker, chief of staff to then-Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr., with the access code that she used to take part in the March 25 call.
Mr. Kilgore's office notified authorities immediately after they suspected a crime had been committed.
"It has been my position since I was first made aware of the situation that behavior of this type is wrong," Mr. Kilgore, a Republican, said yesterday. "I have faith in the United States attorney and our judicial system. I trust that justice will be served."
Mrs. Tucker pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of an unauthorized publication of a wire communication. She is now the lobbyist for Amherst County.
Virginia Republican leaders had no comment yesterday except that they were no longer in contact with Mr. Matricardi or Mrs. Tucker.
"The party is moving forward," said Shawn Smith, the party's communications director.
In his South Carolina post, Mr. Matricardi helped Republicans win the governorship and maintain a U.S. Senate seat in last year's elections.
Virginia officials dropped their investigation against Mr. Matricardi in May but continued to help federal officials prepare their case for yesterday's indictments.

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