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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

McDermott Owes $1M For Secretly Taped Phone Call

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge awarded House Minority Leader John Boehner more than $1 million in legal fees from his lawsuit against Democratic Rep. James McDermott, who leaked an illegally taped phone call in 1996 between GOP leaders and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

McDermott claimed Boehner was only entitled to part of what he sought, because he lost on his argument that the First Amendment does not protect the disclosure of information that was knowingly obtained illegally.

But U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan awarded Boehner the full amount, saying he had won his claim for federal wiretapping violations - the "only claim for which he requests a fee award."

In the underlying suit, Boehner accused McDermott, a former senior member of the House ethics committee, of releasing a tape of a December 1996 call in which Gingrich told Boehner and other Republican leaders how to react to ethical allegations against him.

A Florida couple had illegally recorded the call with a police scanner and submitted it to the House Ethics Committee. McDermott later leaked it to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The New York Times.

McDermott was ordered to pay Boehner $60,000 in damages and more than $600,000 in court costs, while Gingrich was fined $300,000 and was reprimanded by the House.

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