Tripp Still Trapped

Don't be fooled by what Linda Tripp's attorneys may be saying publicly now that a Maryland judge has ruled that the state's wiretapping case against their client will go forward in July. It's true that the defense scored a few victories Friday, which will limit the prosecution's case against Tripp. And it's true that the judge didn't exactly throw her full support behind Monica Lewinsky's credibility.

But it's also true that the judge left the case pretty much on target to make life miserable for the woman who made Monica Lewinsky's life miserable. Remember, it's clear that Tripp secretly taped her conversations with Lewinsky. What's not yet clear is whether prosecutors can make the case that she did so in violation of Maryland law.

There is some good news for Tripp, though. Howard County Circuit Judge Diane Leasure ruled that state prosecutors could not use the testimony of Monica Lewinsky in its entirety as they try to make their case against Tripp. The judge precluded prosecutors from getting Lewinsky to testify about the dates of the now infamous telephone calls which are the subject of the case. And without that testimony, it will be more difficult -- though certainly not impossible -- for the government to prove that Tripp illegally taped Lewinsky.

Judge Leasure limited Lewinsky's testimony about the date of the calls in question because she apparently didn't believe that the testimony was based upon her own personal knowledge as opposed to what she had learned as a result of immunized testimony generated from Kenneth Starr's investigation.

Tripp also won the battle over the testimony of her friend, Catherine Freidrich, who was ready to testify that Tripp told her about secretly taping telephone conversations.

Those two rays of light for Team Tripp don't outweigh the bad news they received Friday, though. First, their motion to dismiss the case outright was rejected by the judge. Tripp's attorneys had argued that the prosecution's case was so tainted by its reliance upon testimony subject to federal immunity that it simply could not properly be sustained at trial. The theory, that you can't use testimony offered under the grant of immunity to prosecute someone given that immunity, was correct. However, the judge found that the facts simply didn't support dismissing the case.

Judge Leasure also permitted Lewinsky to testify that she didn't consent to the taping of the telephone calls, which seems pretty obvious to everyone, but which still must be established in a court of law. Lack of consent is a critical element in the government's case against Tripp and Lewinsky is the best person to prove that element. That testimony will be a big problem for Tripp.

Finally, even though the judge ruled out Freidrich's testimony, Tripp and her attorneys have to figure out how to address the testimony of other folks who apparently are willing and able to talk about what Freidrich would have talked about. In other words, even if prsecutors can't use Freidrich to talk about Tripp's taping, they apparently have other witnesses who can deliver those goods.

And that's yet one more big problem for Team Tripp.