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

The First Trial


In a fraud and conspiracy trial brought by independent counsel Kenneth Starr, a jury in Little Rock on May 28, 1996, returned 24 guilty verdicts against Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and President Clinton's former partners in the Whitewater land deal, Jim and Susan McDougal. After nine weeks of dry courtroom exposition, the jury essentially concluded that the defendants had used McDougal's savings and loan as a private cookie jar, dipping into it for some $3 million in bogus loans to bankroll their many business schemes.

Clinton wasn't a defendant in the case (merely a witness for the defense), and most jurors said they believed his videotaped testimony but found it tangential. Nevertheless their verdict was a blow to the White House.


Instead of giving Clinton the hoped-for acquittal, which could have buried the issue and discredited Starr, the jurors handed the president's critics additional credibility. For one thing, they rejected a central tenet of Clinton's Whitewater theology. By basing their decision on documentary evidence and discounting the testimony of both Clinton and the defendants' chief accuser, David Hale, they undermined the White House argument that the investigation was a baseless, partisan witch hunt.


After the verdict, White House advisors were relieved to see presidential polls register little movement, evidence that voters already had taken the affair into account. But at least one survey, however, taken shortly after the verdicts showed that Americans by a two-to-one margin believed Clinton was hiding something with regard to Whitewater.

Hale alleged that in the mid-1980s, then-Gov. Clinton had participated in a conversation with McDougal pressuring Hale to make an illegal $300,000 loan. Having already told reporters Hale's account was "a bunch of bull," Clinton denied the allegation during his testimony, which was videotaped at the White House April 28.


Susan McDougal was sentenced to two years behind bars, but after refusing to testify before Starr's Little Rock grand jury, a federal judge held her in contempt of court and jailed her an additional 18 months. Meanwhile, Tucker was sentenced to four years' probation, avoiding a prison sentence largely due to liver disease. And in February 1998 he pleaded guilty to charges brought by Starr that he obscured profits from a lucrative cable TV deal.

Jim McDougal's sentencing was delayed for nearly a year, following his August 1996 decision to cooperate with Starr's investigation. Sources said McDougal reversed earlier testimony, and is now corroborating Hale's charge that Clinton discussed an illegal loan. In April 1997 he was sentenced to three years in jail and one year of home arrest. He died in prison of a heart attack in March 1998.


McDougal not guilty on one count; mistrial declared on other two charges

The trials and tribulations of Susan McDougal



Cast of Characters

Arkansas roots

The first trial

The second trial

The RTC investigation


Judge allows juror to remain; deliberations to resume monday

McDougal jurors ask judge about 'innocent reason' (4-8-99)

McDougal trial likely go to jury Thursday (4-7-99)

Prosecution rests in McDougal trial (4-5-99)

McDougal trial: Steele says she was punished for telling the truth (4-2-99)

McDougal attorneys given day off to prep for Steele testimony (4-1-99)

Witness: Jim McDougal wanted his ex to cooperate with Starr (3-31-99)

Steele allowed to testify (3-30-99)

Prosecutors play interview outtakes in McDougal trial (3-29-99)

McDougal says her ex-husband lied about Clinton's Whitewater involvement (3-24-99)

McDougal answers questions about Clinton for the first time (3-23-99)


McDougal jubilant after jury finds her not guilty (11-24-98)

McDougal 'in shock' after early release from prison (10-27-98)

McDougal likely to answer questions about Clinton during contempt trial (5-12-98)

Grand jury indicts McDougal for contempt (5-4-98)

McDougal blasts "hoodlum" Ken Starr (10-3-96)

McDougal charged with civil contempt (9-4-96)

Susan McDougal gets two years in prison (8-20-96)

Whitewater jury convicts defendants (5-28-96)


President Bill Clinton's Whitewater Testimony - First Trial (5-9-96)

Whitewater jury convicts defendants (5-28-96)

President Bill Clinton's Whitewater Testimony - Second Trial (7-18-96)

James McDougal on CNN's Larry King Live (4-21-97)

Starr, Jahn, McDougal Transcript (4-15-97)


The Independent Counsel

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