- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 20, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) — Democratic lawmakers have filed a lawsuit against several formerly prominent Republicans over the eavesdropping on Democratic conference calls two years ago that led to the downfall of the state Republican Party executive director.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond Friday, lists as defendants former state GOP Executive Director Edmund Matricardi, former state party Chairman Gary Thomson, former House of Delegates Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. and former Wilkins aide Claudia Tucker.

It also names “John and Jane Does 1-20,” describing them as “individuals whose identities remain unknown” but who attended a Republican planning meeting days after the eavesdropping incident in March 2002.

The suit accuses the former GOP officials of “wanton, willful, reckless and malicious” behavior by listening to and recording the two conference calls during which Democrats discussed legal strategy over the Republicans’ 2001 redistricting plan.

The plaintiffs, among them House Minority Leader Frank Hall and Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, seek unspecified statutory and punitive damages. Several other Democratic House and Senate members also are listed as plaintiffs.

The suit was filed three days before the two-year deadline for civil legal action in the case.

“Money is not the object,” Sen. Creigh Deeds, Bath County Democrat, told the Danville Register & Bee on Friday. “There are legitimate questions outstanding about who had what information and when they got it. Who was involved? The public needs that information.”

Matricardi and Miss Tucker declined to comment on the suit Friday, but Mr. Wilkins called it “a fishing expedition.” Mr. Wilkins received briefings on the two conference calls while he was still in office.

Mr. Thomson did not respond to requests for comment. However, state Republican Party Chairwoman Kate Obenshain Griffin released a statement distancing the party from the scandal.

“The defendants named in this lawsuit are not employed by or part of the leadership of the Republican Party of Virginia,” the statement reads.

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