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Susan McDougal Jailed for Refusing to Testify

September 10, 1996| Special to The Times

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Susan McDougal, President Clinton's Whitewater investment partner, was imprisoned for contempt of court Monday for refusing to answer prosecutors' questions about whether Clinton had knowledge of criminal wrongdoing in connection with the Whitewater resort development.

McDougal, 41, was harshly critical of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and his investigators as she surrendered to federal marshals for what could be an 18-month sentence for refusing to answer questions before a Whitewater grand jury.

She contends that Starr has offered her leniency not for providing the truth, but for providing him with information that would enable him to bring criminal charges against the president and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I'm so angry that they hold themselves out to be so full of integrity, so above reproach," she told reporters as she entered the courthouse. "They will do anything. There's nothing they won't do."

Starr's office previously had issued a statement saying McDougal's defense team was "brazenly trying to deceive the public" about discussions they have had with his office and about her legal rights before the grand jury as a convicted felon.

McDougal has insisted that she has no knowledge of criminal activity by the president, and that she has received no assistance or direction from the White House.

"If the Clintons have helped me or the White House has helped me, then God help us all, because I'm about to go to jail," she said. "I am following my conscience."

Jennifer Horan, a U.S. public defender assigned to McDougal's case, said she is pursuing an appeal of the contempt conviction. She also plans to appeal McDougal's earlier conviction for fraud in connection with a $300,000 loan from a government-backed small business investment corporation that was never repaid.

McDougal was sentenced by a federal judge Wednesday after she refused to answer questions put to her by one of Starr's assistants before a federal grand jury. Among them was: "Did William Jefferson Clinton testify truthfully at your trial?"

In his testimony, Clinton denied any knowledge of the illegal activity for which McDougal was convicted--along with her ex-husband, James B. McDougal, and former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.

Susan McDougal had been scheduled to report to prison Sept. 30 to begin serving a two-year term for her fraud conviction. The judge has not decided whether her two sentences will run concurrently or consecutively.

After 7 1/2 hours in the court lockup, she was taken in shackles and handcuffs to a van bound for the Faulkner County jail.

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