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RICHMOND--The former executive director of the state Republican Party was sentenced yesterday to three years probation, 180 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine for eavesdropping on Democratic conference calls.
Edmund Matricardi III, who pleaded guilty to one federal count of intercepting a wire transmission, apologized to Gov. Mark Warner and the other Democrats who were on the March 2002 conference calls. The Democrats were discussing strategy in their lawsuit against the new legislative districts Republicans drew in 2001.
"I stand here before you a humble man," Matricardi, who lives in Spotsylvania County, told U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer. "I never would have imagined that I'd be standing where I am now."
Matricardi said he accepted responsibility for what he did but never would have done it if he thought he was breaking the law.
"I never should have done it, and for that I apologize" to the Democrats, the people of Virginia and his family, Matricardi said. "With today's resolution I can begin the next chapter of my life."
Spencer said he "agonized" over Matricardi's sentence, feeling that giving Matricardi jail time would set an example.
"I think about the young Democrats and young Republicans fermenting on college campuses and getting ready to join the culture wars," Spencer said. "They need to know that the minute they put party above principle they step over the line. They denigrate the system.There is wrong and right and what Mr. Matricardi did was wrong."
In the end, Spencer added, he decided to give Matricardi "the individual treatment he deserves," rather than make an example of him.
Matricardi's attorney, Stephen Benjamin, noted that the court received several letters from people--including some Democrats - attesting to Matricardi's character. Benjamin said Matricardi had been punished enough, in that his political career is over and his law license suspended.
"Because of what he did his career is finished," Benjamin said. "His name has become synonymous with scandalI know that the conviction is punishment enoughis ruinous to this man."
As a result of this felony conviction, Matricardi cannot hold office or vote. A hearing before the Virginia State Bar is pending on whether his law license will be revoked.
Benjamin had begun to rehash his defense that Matricardi had been invited to listen to calls that should have been open to the public.
But Spencer quashed that line of argument, telling Benjamin to speak about Matricardi's character and future.
"If you get up here and start excusing what he did, you're going to tick me off," Spencer warned.
Matricardi had been executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia for three years when, in March 2002, he was given the codes to two Democratic Party conference calls. Matricardi listened to and taped the two calls from his Richmond office, and encouraged Claudia Tucker, then the chief of staff to House Speaker Vance Wilkins, to listen in on the second call.
Matricardi disclosed the contents of those calls to an official in Attorney General Jerry Kilgore's office. That official notified the state police.
Matricardi resigned from his RPV post in April 2002 when he was first indicted on state charges in the case; those state charges were later dropped, and Matricardi moved to South Carolina for a job with that state's Republican Party. He resigned the South Carolina job this past January when he was indicted on federal charges in the eavesdropping case.
Gov. Mark Warner said he was glad Matricardi "finally acknowledged what he did was wrong."
"My hope is this will be a lesson to all the political operatives out there that that kind of win-at-any-cost mentality just doesn't have a place in the political process," Warner added. "Listening in on someone else's phone call, that's not right."