masthead-highres

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Boehner v. McDermott Phone Tape Case Apparently Resolved

I missed this when it was announced October 29, and suspect others who followed this case (which received a lot of attention from conservative talk radio) may have as well.
Roll Call, October 29, 2004 (excerpt):

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) has been ordered to pay Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) $60,000 in damages, plus "reasonable" attorney's fees that could total more than $500,000, a federal judge ruled...

The groundbreaking case stems from a December 1996 phone call among House GOP leaders to discuss strategy for handling the ethics case against then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Boehner, who at the time was GOP Conference chairman, took part in the call using a cellphone while parked at a northern Florida restaurant. The call was electronically intercepted by a Florida couple, Alice and John Martin, who eventually gave a copy of the tape to McDermott. He then gave the tape to three newspapers.

In March 1998, Boehner sued McDermott, alleging that the Washington Democrat had violated both federal and Florida wiretapping statutes by leaking the tape to the media. Since that time, there have been numerous legal twists and turns in the case, including a 1999 decision by Hogan to dismiss it that was later overturned by an appeals court, which then sent the case back to Hogan. Settlement talks in 2002 collapsed, and the two sides continued to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their legal teams, shelling out approximately $900,000 overall, according to the latest estimates.

In his decision to award Boehner both statutory and punitive damages totaling $60,000, Hogan criticized McDermott's "outrageous conduct in this case." Hogan added: "The Court finds that Defendant's conduct was malicious in that he intentionally disclosed the tape to the national media in an attempt to politically harm the participants through an invasion of their privacy."

Boehner's attorney, Michael Carvin of the firm Jones Day, said he expects that McDermott will eventually have to cover all of Boehner's legal bills. "You always have nibbling at the margins, but we have a good reasonableness argument here," said Carvin. "We're quite pleased" with the ruling.
Addendum: Reader Eric F. recommends this Seattle Post-Intelligencer story on the Boehner-McDermott case:
Another interesting tidbit on McDermott's fine -- he's getting lots of help ("heavy lifting") paying it off: McDermott's Allies Line Up to Help Him Pay Damages.

Funny (but not surprising) how the PI turns it around and makes the issue into a Republican issue.
I liked the end of the piece:
The judge's ruling was a double blow because Boehner, a seven-term congressman who is chairman of the House Education Committee, said he was willing to settle for a much lower amount.

"I told him there are three issues," Boehner told the P-I in August. "Admit you were wrong. Apologize. And since I was suing him for $10,000, I wanted him to make a donation to charity. He couldn't bring himself to do it."
Addendum II (11/20/04): Apparently, it is not resolved. McDermott plans an appeal.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:55 PM

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