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E-mail From Washington

From: Terry Frieden/CNN Justice Department Correspondent
In: Washington, D.C.
Posted: 4-23-97

Subject: Florida couple who taped Gingrich agree to plead guilty to charges, pay fine

A Florida couple who admit they taped a recorded a cellular phone conversation involving House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other GOP House leaders on Dec. 21, 1996, have agreed to plead guilty in an agreement announced by the Justice Department Wednesday evening.

The Justice Department says John and Alice Martin, of Columbia County, Fla., have agreed to plead guilty to intentionally intercepting a cellular telephone call in violation of federal law. They have agreed to pay a $5,000 fine each. The violation carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Martins have publicly acknowledged they taped the Republican cell phone call and provided it to Rep. James McDermott (D-Wash.). It was then turned over to The New York Times.

After the contents of the phone call were reported in the Times, McDermott was widely suspected of leaking the tape. He recused himself from the ethics committee deliberation of Gingrich's case.

McDermott's office said tonight that the congressman had "no comment" on whether he leaked the tape, acknowledging only that he provided the tape to Rep. Nancy Johnson of the ethics committee.

When the telephone conversation was divulged, it created a flap on Capitol Hill because it contained conversations involving Gingrich and GOP allies discussing a strategy for responding to the ethics committee charges against the speaker -- a process Gingrich had agreed to not involve himself in.

Gingrich has since agreed to pay the ethics penalty with a loan from former Kansas GOP Sen. Bob Dole.

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