Monica Gets Day In Court

It's payback time for Monica Lewinsky.

The former White House intern, whose conversations with former friend Linda Tripp were key evidence in Kenneth Starr's investigation of President Clinton, left a Maryland courthouse Thursday morning after trying to help prosecutors put Tripp behind bars.

Her appearance sparked the kind of media madness characteristic of the president's impeachment trial, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan. And, although she was calm and collected on the stand, her testimony may have left a critical opening for Tripp's lawyers to exploit.

Lewinsky was called here by prosecutors who are trying to convict Tripp on two counts of violating the state's wiretapping laws. Tripp could face up to ten years in prison.

Although the tapes that revealed her relationship with Mr. Clinton and led to his impeachment were at the heart of her testimony, Lewinsky never mentioned the president during her hour on the stand.

Asked by prosecutor Carmen Shepard what she thought when her words unexpectedly appeared in Newsweek magazine two years ago, Lewinsky said, "It was very clear to me that it was from previous conversations I had with Linda Tripp."

How could she be sure the taped conversation actually took place on Dec. 22, 1997, as Newsweek said? "It was etched in my mind because it was a pretty frightening time for me," Lewinsky said.

The date is crucial to the case against Tripp. Although she made more than 20 hours of tapes, she is charged only with making the tape on that date and allowing it to be played for Newsweek.

Tripp's lawyers insist that Lewinsky was able to date the tapes only because of Tripp's immunized testimony to Starr's office.

The Maryland case cannot be based, even indirectly, on information Tripp provided to Starr under court-ordered immunity from prosecution.

In another courtroom exchange, a lead Lewinsky gave to prosecutors was attacked by the defense.

Last summer, Lewinsky suggested to Montanarelli that his investigators talk to a Tripp confidante named Kate Friedrich. When they did, the investigators struck gold. Courtesy of Tripp, Friedrich had actually listened to a tape recording of Lewinsky, purportedly made on Dec. 22, 1997, that is the foundation of the wiretapping case.

But under questioning by Tripp's lawyers, Lewinsky acknowledged Thursday that she probably learned Friedrich's last name from the office of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Starr, in turn, may have gotten Friedrich's name from statements Tripp made under a court-ordered grant of immunity. The source of Friedrich's name is critical because Montanarelli must show that nothing in his case is derived from Tripp's immunized statements.

Tripp was not at the hearing but her son, Ryan Tripp, watched Lewinsky testify. Mrs. Tripp, a Pentagon employee, could not attend because "she's got to work for a living," he said.

Whatever the outcome of the tril, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart told The Early Show Friday that Mr. Clinton is too busy to be paying much attention:

"The president was involved very much Thursday with the Middle East peace process, getting his budget ready and working on America's priorities. I know there are a lot of people who still like to watch this. No one here at the White House is in that group.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report