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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Hubbell pleads guilty as part of deal with Starr

Longtime friend insists Clintons did nothing wrong

June 30, 1999
Web posted at: 1:20 p.m. EDT (1720 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 30) -- Former Associate Attorney General and Clinton friend Webster Hubbell pleaded guilty Wednesday to one felony charge of concealing his legal work on a failed Arkansas land deal and one tax evasion misdemeanor, both as part of a plea agreement with Independent Counsel Ken Starr.

Under the terms of the agreement, prosecutors recommended no jail time or fine for the felony and will drop charges against Hubbell's wife, Suzy, and his accountant. U.S. District Judge James Robertson accepted Hubbell's guilty pleas and the prosecutors' sentence recommendation, placing Hubbell on one year probation.

"After five years, it's over," a relieved Hubbell told reporters following the court appearance. "The Office of Independent Counsel has finally agreed to leave me, my family and my friends alone, and our lives can begin again. For the first time in five years I am not under criminal investigation."

The charges were two of 15 counts for which Hubbell was scheduled to stand trial Aug. 9. The remaining charges have been dismissed.

Following the court appearance, Hubbell and Starr disagreed over the details of Hubbell's guilty plea. Hubbell said he agreed to plead guilty to failing to disclose a potential conflict of interest ten years ago to federal regulators. He also said he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to pay all the income taxes he owed while he was in prison. But Starr said that his prosecutors were ready to prove all the allegations in the charge against Hubbell, which included that he lied about legal work he and first lady Hillary Clinton did on the Castle Grande land deal in Arkansas.

The felony charge stemmed from legal work Hubbell and Mrs. Clinton performed in the 1980s on the Castle Grande land development in Arkansas, a project that became part of the Whitewater investigation headed by Starr.

But Hubbell said, "Mrs. Clinton did nothing wrong and what I plead to today has nothing to do with Mrs. Clinton. All of those charges against me have been dismissed for good."

He added, "I have no knowledge of wrongdoing on behalf of President and Mrs. Clinton."

In court, Starr spoke to the judge about the demise of the independent counsel statute, which coincidentally occurs Wednesday. He said that one of the reasons he settled the Hubbell case was because "it behooves us to bring matters within our jurisdiction to a prompt and reasonable conclusion."

This spring, Starr's office suffered two defeats as the two separate trials of Susan McDougal and Julie Hiatt Steele both ended in deadlocked juries. Starr decided not to retry either woman, and said Wednesday that those setbacks contributed to this decision to settle the Hubbell matter.

"Recent experience has indicated to us that it is extraordinarily difficult to identify and find jurors who are able to set aside totally their understandings and preconceptions and the like," the independent counsel told reporters.

The misdemeanor count of not reporting income stemmed from consulting jobs Hubbell performed prior to his fraud conviction in 1994. The indictment said Hubbell paid only $30,000 in taxes for 1989-92 and 1994-95, even though he earned more than $1 million from 1994 to 1997.

Starr's prosecutors have investigated whether the Clinton White House arranged that work for Hubbell as "hush money" payments to keep him quiet in Starr's investigation.

Following the Hubbell's plea, the White House released a brief statement stating: "The president and first lady recognize that these past few years have been very difficult ones for Webb and Suzy Hubbell, and they hope that this resolution will allow the Hubbells to move on to a brighter future."

The plea ends nearly five years of investigation of Hubbell, who formerly was the No. 3 official in the Justice Department. He already has served 16 months in jail after he pleaded guilty in 1994 to stealing $400,000 from the Rose Law firm -- where he and Mrs. Clinton worked together -- and its clients.

CNN's Bob Franken contributed to this report.


Hubbell to plead guilty in deal with Starr (6-28-99)

Starr puts first lady on witness list for Hubbell trial (6-23-99)

Federal judge may order investigation into Hubbell indictment (3-2-99)

Judge rejects Hubbell's motions to dismiss six charges (2-17-99)

Hubbell 'disappointed' by appeals court decision (1-26-99)

Hubbell pleads innocent to latest Whitewater charges (11-23-98)

Justice Department supports Hubbell against Starr (9-29-98)


Justice Department Web site


The Independent Counsel


Wednesday, June 30, 1999

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