Susan McDougal's Early Release Depends On Medical Test
Judge order Whitewater figure to undergo MRI before ruling on motion
By Terry Frieden/CNN
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AllPolitics, June 18) -- Convicted Whitewater figure Susan McDougal must have a test and wait until June 25 for a new hearing on whether she will be released from federal prison on medical reasons.
McDougal returned Thursday to the federal courtroom where she was
sentenced, hoping a federal judge would release her. However, attorneys for
both sides said they could not present expert witnesses until McDougal
undergoes an MRI, a magnetic resonance imaging test, to determine the condition
of her neck and spine.
McDougal arrived at the courthouse shackled with handcuffs and chains
around her waist and ankles. Asked if she was hopeful the judge would free her,
she said, "I don't know. I don't know."
She appeared before U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr., the same judge
who sentenced her to two years in prison in August 1996 on fraud charges
resulting from the Whitewater investigation.
Mark Barrett, an attorney representing Whitewater Independent Counsel Ken
Starr, said the Federal Bureau of Prisons had agreed to pay for the test and
the Independent Counsel's office would attempt to arrange for McDougal to have
the test in Little Rock.
Howard set another hearing for June 25.
In the meantime, McDougal was taken back to the Pulaski County Detention
Center to await the test. The exact date it will be given was not disclosed.
McDougal has just recently begun serving her Whitewater sentence after
serving 18 months on civil contempt charges for refusing to testify before the
Whitewater grand jury.
After the test is concluded, attorneys for McDougal, 42, are expected to
call a California physician who will testify that McDougal suffers severe pain
when she is transported in handcuffs and chains between jails and federal
prison facilities. McDougal suffers from a degenerative spinal condition called
McDougal was moved last week from a California jail to the Pulaski County
Detention Center in Little Rock for Thursday's hearing. Her family members say
she suffers extreme pain when she is confined by handcuffs and leg chains.
However, Barrett is expected to argue that her condition can be
effectively treated within the federal prison system. Barrett had been
expected to call a doctor Thursday from the federal prison system to testify
that McDougal does not need to be released for medical reasons.
McDougal faces two more trials. She is scheduled to go on trial July 13 in
Los Angeles on charges she embezzled money from symphony conductor Zubin Mehta
and his wife. In addition, she also faces trial in September on indictments
sought by Starr's office for criminal contempt for again refusing to testify
before the Whitewater grand jury.
McDougal is eligible for parole on the Whitewater charge sometime early next year.