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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 scoliosis.

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.

In Other News

Thursday, June 18, 1998

Gingrich To Propose 'Slimmed Down' Tobacco Bill
Sen. Kerrey Hiring N.H., Iowa State Directors
Richardson And Holbrooke Nominated To New Posts
Tobacco Bill's Death Could Have A Budget Impact
Did Ken Starr Have A Plan To Wire Monica Lewinsky?
Susan McDougal's Early Release Depends On Medical Test
House Considers Campaign Finance Legislation

Streaming Video: Sen. John McCain Interview

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