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Mrs. Gingrich Seeks Sanctions

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his lawyers should be punished for failing to answer questions stemming from his current divorce proceedings, lawyers for his wife say.

In Cobb County Superior Court on Thursday, lawyers for Marianne Gingrich called Gingrich's conduct "egregious, extreme and abusive" and asked a judge for sanctions.

"We believe Mr. Gingrich is trying to trivialize this court. All we want him to do is answer the d-a-r-n questions," said John Mayoue, who represents Mrs. Gingrich.

Mrs. Gingrich, 48, was in the courtroom, but her estranged husband did not attend the hearing. Gingrich, 56, filed for divorce in July, saying the couple's 18-year marriage was "irretrievably broken."

Gingrich's lawyers have admitted that he started a relationship with Callista Bisek, a 33-year-old congressional aide, during a previous separation with Mrs. Gingrich and continued it through a reconciliation. However, lawyers refused to categorize it as an affair.

The hearing was over whether Gingrich had to answer 32 questions posed to him by Mrs. Gingrich's attorneys as part of the discovery process.

Gingrich attorney Tom Browning argued that by including several questions as subsets of main questions, Mrs. Gingrich's lawyers exceeded the 50 "interrogatories" they are allowed by law.

"When you add it all up, it is way more than 50, more like 300," Browning said. "Now it comes down to which questions should be answeredÂ…And if you want to take a harsh stance, we could say none."

He said Gingrich answered 58 of what he considered separate questions that covered everything from past and future finances to conduct within the marriage to possible extramarital affairs. Any sanctions would come out of a joint account set up to cover legal fees, Browning said.

Many of the questions center on Gingrich's finances following 1995, when he became speaker of the House, a position he held until January, when he resigned after the GOP's disappointing performance in the 1998 election.

Judge Dorothy A. Robinson gave no indication when she might rule on the matter.

In Washington Wednesday, Ms. Bisek admitted in a deposition to Gingrich's lawyers that she and the former speaker had "an intimate relationship" but would not answer questions about possible sexual relations.

Browning was at the two-hour deposition in Washington and said it became tense at times.

"Her attorney objected several times, so it wasn't all that cozy," Browning said.

Mrs. Gingrich referred all questions to Mayoue, who has also requested to depose Ms. Bisek and called Wednesday's deposition "a sham."

The Gingriches have already agreed to a temporary separation agreement based on a similar agreement reached during the couple's first separation. The two split in 1987 but reconciled in 1993, two years before Gingrich became speaker.