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Linda Tripped Up

Linda Tripp has tried desperately to shed her image as the villain in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. She changed her looks, and even made a calculated plea for sympathy, telling Americans that she was "just like" them.

Friday, she became more than a villain, as CBS News Correspondent Phil Jones reports, she became a defendant. Tripp was indicted for violating Maryland's wiretapping laws.

The indictment stems from the former White House worker's secretly recorded conversations with Lewinsky. She later gave the recordings to independent counsel Kenneth Starr, triggering the investigation that led to the impeachment of President Clinton.

Starr gave Tripp immunity from federal prosecution. The deal, however, does not apply when it comes to the alleged violations of Maryland state laws, where she is a resident and recorded the calls.

The indictment charges Tripp with "unlawful interception of communication from Monica Lewinsky," said State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli.

He said the indictment stems from a phone conversation taped on Dec. 22, 1997 made after Tripp's lawyer told her that secret taping was illegal.

Tripp also was charged with allegedly disclosing the contents of that conversation to Newsweek magazine.
Wiretapping in Maryland is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense. The state law prohibits the taping of telephone conversations without the consent of both parties.

Montanarelli, a Democrat, said he would prosecute the case himself. Asked whether the case would be seen by some as being politically inspired he replied, "I can't help how it will be seen ... I think we've done our duty."

Ignorance of the law is a valid defense in this case, but Tripp, who made more than 20 hours of tapes from her Columbia, Md., home, testified before Starr's grand jury that she taped several conversations in late 1997, even after an attorney told her it was illegal.

After the indictment was handed up Tripp's lawyer, Joseph Murtha, asked that his client be allowed to surrender voluntarily rather than being arrested.

There was no sign of Tripp Friday. No one answered a knock on the door at her home and neighbors said they had not seen her for about a week.