Whitewater Case Goes to Jury

Article excerpt

The jury in the fraud case against Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and Bill Clinton's former Whitewater partners began their deliberations Thursday, weighing the word of the president against that of a small-town felon.

The panelists retired to the jury room at midday and were sent home for the night after selecting a forewoman and deliberating for five hours.

In his instructions, U.S. District Judge George Howard told jurors that they could take plea bargains and financial deals into account in weighing the credibility of David Hale, the prosecution's star witness, and other witnesses. Four government witnesses received immunity from prosecution in return for their testimony; two others reached plea bargains.

Bobby McDaniel, a defense attorney, said the verdict would set the tone for the rest of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's investigation into Whitewater.

"Acquittal of all the charges should shut down the Whitewater investigation," he said.

Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and James and Susan McDougal are accused of defrauding two federally backed lenders of $3 million between 1985 and 1987, when Tucker was in private business and the McDougals ran the now-defunct Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan.

Hale testified that he had conspired with James McDougal and Tucker to lend them and their friends money that was eventually misused for personal or improper business purposes. Hale also has said that Clinton pressured him to make a $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal's business in 1986 when Clinton was governor of Arkansas, a claim that Clinton denied during videotaped testimony played last week. …