McDougal Again Defies Grand Jury
Her family says she'll talk, but not to Ken Starr
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (April 23) -- Susan McDougal refused Thursday to testify before the Whitewater grand jury, turning aside questions from prosecutors and at least one member of the jury, sources familiar with the proceedings told CNN.
McDougal and Independent Counsel Ken Starr are playing a "game of chicken," McDougal lawyer Mark Geragos said, with McDougal refusing to answer questions and Starr threatening to charge her with criminal contempt.
McDougal, as she was taken from the federal courthouse in shackles and an orange prison jumpsuit, told reporters that she spoke directly to grand jurors, trying to explain her silence.
"I told them the same thing I've been saying, but I think they just see me as someone on television," McDougal said.
"I'm somebody that's been in jail and has really paid a price for the things I'm saying, you know," she said. "And I hope they listened to me, but I don't know.
"I didn't want them to think that I was contemptuous of them," she said.
A spokesman for Starr said McDougal was called because "Judge Starr believes any witness should have a last clear chance to testify" and tell what they know.
Starr is investigating the failed Whitewater land deal which involved McDougal, her late former husband, James, and their partners Bill and Hillary Clinton.
McDougal has already served 18 months in prison for refusing to cooperate with the same grand jury. She also faces a 24-month Whitewater prison term.
McDougal could face a criminal contempt charge if she again refuses to answer questions. The civil citation, like the one she has served the 18 months for, cannot extend beyond the end of the grand jury's current term which ends May 7.
McDougal would welcome a criminal contempt charge because it would give her a jury trial in which she could raise questions about conflicts of interest that Starr and his staff have in their investigation, Geragos said.
"If they try to imprison her for longer than six months, she's got the right to a jury trial," Geragos said. "This is not a woman who's afraid for one minute of a jury trial on a criminal contempt.
"I think you can satisfy yourself one of the reasons we're at a loggerhead is they understand that this is kind of a game of chicken," he said.
"Somebody's going to have to blink at some point, because if she's indicted on criminal contempt, that allows for her to have a jury trial," he said.
Geragos said Starr's staff has told him they expect to file a criminal contempt charge because of her refusal to testify.
Her lawyer said McDougal spent a total of 15 or 20 minutes before the Whitewater grand jury and much of the rest of Thursday either consulting with him or in the judge's chambers.
McDougal's attorney said his client knows of no illegal actions by the Clintons in the Whitewater land case. McDougal refused to answer questions before about how much the president knew about a fraudulent $300,000 loan she received 10 years earlier and whether he told the truth at her trial.
Geragos attempted Wednesday to quash Starr's latest subpoena for McDougal to testify, claiming that Starr had a conflict of interest in the case. However, Judge Susan Webber Wright rejected the motion.
Family: Susan will talk, but not Starr
The family of McDougal lashed out at Starr, charging his Whitewater investigation is corrupt and vowing McDougal will never cooperate with him.
At a news conference Thursday, McDougal's brother Bill Henley said his sister wants to tell a court what she knows but that if she cooperates with Starr's grand jury he will only charge her with perjury.
"She has nothing to hide. She doesn't want immunity, she wants to talk to the American people and tell them what she knows," Bill Henley said.
"She has already told them that the president knew nothing about the $300,000 loan. Ken Starr spent $40 million promulgating the theory that he knew about it and was participating in it. It is an outright lie. I call it the $40 million lie.
"He has spent the money, and if Susan McDougal walks into a grand jury and goes against the theory of the $40 million lie that President Clinton knew something about the $300,000 loan, I can assure Kenneth Starr and his people will charge her with perjury. That is one of the reasons she won't testify."
Another brother, Jim Henley, tears welling in his eyes, said Starr had intentionally kept McDougal behind bars and away from her family in an attempt to force her to testify.
"I have not embraced her or touched her in almost two years," said Jim Henley. "We had to get a lawsuit to get my mother in to see her and visit her when she was being held ... in Los Angeles when convicted murderers were being allowed to see their relatives every day around her without a problem.
Jim Henley disputed that his sister was protecting the president, instead saying that she needs protection from Starr. "We cannot believe that today the independent counsel has new questions about a twenty year old land deal," he said.
"We hope that the new phase of this investigation will be investigating the investigator. We will investigate Mr. Starr, his conflicts of interest, his associate attorneys, their conflicts of interest, David Hale, payments to him."
Bill Henley continued, "Susan has numerous times stated that without immunity she will stand up in a court of law and testify to everything she knows. She's also stated she will go before Congress and testify. She does not believe this investigation. Ken Starr is a sham. He is a liar and he suborned perjury from her early on in this investigation. She will have nothing to do with Ken Starr ever, not in this grand jury and not in a new one.
"The justice system cannot work as long as Ken Starr is investigating his own investigation. That's the reason we have to stand up to Starr."
If McDougal continues to refuse to testify before the grand jury she could face criminal contempt charges. The Henleys said if criminal contempt charges are brought against Susan McDougal and she is convicted by a jury, she will serve the sentence. But Bill Henley said he did not believe an Arkansas jury would convict her of criminal contempt.