Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe aren't the first to secretly and illegally record a conversation involving someone they disliked politically (ACORN workers). The big difference between this couple and Alice and John Martin is that the Martins didn't set up the conversation. They just happened upon it accidentally.
See all ACORN posts.
Florida Couple Are Charged In Taping of Gingrich Call
By JERRY GRAY
April 24, 1997
The Justice Department today filed charges against a Florida couple who said they had intercepted and recorded a conference call last December among Speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republican leaders.
The Federal authorities in Jacksonville, Fla., announced this afternoon that the couple, John and Alice Martin, had been charged with an infraction, violating the Communications Privacy Act by using a radio scanner to intercept the radio portion of the conversation. It is the mildest criminal charge the couple could face in the case and carries a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine.
The Government said the Martins had agreed to plead guilty to the charges, and said the couple would cooperate with a continuing investigation into how a recording of the conversation wound up in the hands of a New York Times reporter.
The conversation the Martins taped took place on the same day Mr. Gingrich admitted he had violated House ethics rules by failing to get adequate legal advice on the use of tax-exempt money and then giving the House ethics committee inaccurate information in its investigation. During the call, the Speaker and several colleagues discussed how best to handle the political fallout of the ethics charges.
After it was made public, Democrats complained that the call had violated a plea bargain of sorts that Mr. Gingrich made with the committee, in which he had agreed not to rally opposition to the committee's decision to reprimand him. Republicans said a transcript of the call shows just the opposite, that the Speaker was keeping the agreement.
A Republican leader at the center of the case said he was pleased with today's action, but called Mr. and Mrs. Martin ''patsies.'' Republicans have said they believed that the Martins, who are Democrats, had been used by their party's leaders for partisan purposes. ''I won't be satisfied until every guilty party is brought to justice regardless of their political affiliations or position of influence,'' said Representative John A. Boehner, the chairman of the Republican Conference. ''Anyone who knowingly accepted the tape and passed it along to the press is also guilty.''
Mr. Boehner was driving in Florida on Dec. 21 when the Martins' police scanner picked up signals from the cellular telephone he was using in a call with Mr. Gingrich and other Republicans, including the House majority leader, Dick Armey of Texas, and Representative Bill Paxon of New York.
Charles R. Wilson, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, said there was no evidence that the Martins intended to use the conversation for illegal purposes or financial gain.
Mr. and Mrs. Martin said at a news conference on Jan. 13 that they had taped the call when they recognized Mr. Gingrich's voice because they had a feeling it was historic. The couple said their Congresswoman, Representative Karen L. Thurman, a Democrat, suggested they give the recording to the senior Democrat on the House ethics committee, Representative Jim McDermott, and that they did so.
The tape caused an uproar on Capitol Hill after The New York Times reported on Jan. 10 that a couple had intercepted the conversation and that a Democratic House member who was hostile to Mr. Gingrich had made the tape available to the newspaper.