WASHINGTON — Susan McDougal, the convicted Whitewater figure who already has served 1 1/2 years in prison rather than answer questions from prosecutors, is expected to reassert her intransigence today when she is brought before a federal grand jury again.
"I would bet the farm that Susan will not cooperate," said Mark J. Geragos, her lawyer from Los Angeles, in an interview. "I just can't imagine that she would."
Geragos acknowledged that McDougal risks being indicted for criminal contempt of court if she repeats her performance of September 1996, when she refused to answer questions before the same grand jury. If convicted of criminal contempt, she would face up to five additional years of confinement.
McDougal's reappearance before the grand jury in Little Rock, Ark., comes as the panel's term approaches its May 7 end date.
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright on Wednesday rejected Geragos' request to postpone McDougal's appearance before the grand jury.
Geragos contended that independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's office should be prohibited from questioning his client until an alleged conflict of interest is investigated. Geragos cited questions raised recently about the activities of Richard Mellon Scaife, a Pittsburgh, Pa., publisher who has underwritten research in Arkansas conducted by the anti-Clinton American Spectator magazine.
After an April 9 request from the Justice Department, Starr's office is investigating whether David Hale, a central witness at McDougal's trial, "received cash and other gratuities from individuals seeking to discredit the president" while Hale was a cooperating witness.
Hale, a former municipal judge in Little Rock, has said that Clinton in the 1980s encouraged him to give McDougal a $300,000 loan funded by the Small Business Administration. Clinton has denied any involvement with the loan.
At her last appearance before the grand jury, on Sept. 4, McDougal refused to answer when asked whether Clinton knew about the $300,000 loan. McDougal also declined to answer whether Clinton testified truthfully at her trial, in the spring of 1996.
McDougal is now beginning to serve the two-year sentence she received for her conviction on four fraud-related felonies in the 1996 Whitewater trial. McDougal also continues to await trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court on charges that she embezzled more than $100,000 from Zubin Mehta, the former conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra.