RICHMOND, Va. – A federal judge refused Monday to throw out charges that the former head of Virginia's Republican Party illegally eavesdropped on and recorded Democratic conference calls.
Attorneys for Edmund Matricardi III argued that his participation in the two calls was legal under Virginia's Freedom of Information Act and the First Amendment.
But prosecutors said it was a criminal act because he listened to a Democratic strategy session without identifying himself or getting consent from Democratic legislators.
"He's being prosecuted for one reason and one reason only: As a partisan, he clandestinely and deliberately listened in on Democratic Party conference calls for his own selfish reasons," Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Miller said.
U.S. District Judge James Spencer said he would explain his ruling in favor of the prosecution in a later written memorandum.
Matricardi, 34, is scheduled to go on trial April 9 on five felony charges related to wiretapping for allegedly eavesdropping on two Democratic strategy sessions and recording one of them. Claudia Tucker, chief of staff to former state House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr., has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for listening in on one of the calls.
Because of the scandal, Matricardi resigned as Virginia GOP director. He later joined the South Carolina GOP as operations director, then quit that post after he was indicted in Virginia.
A former Democratic legislative aide admitted in a plea agreement last month that he distributed the phone number and access code for the private Democratic conference calls.