WASHINGTON — Presidential friend Webster L. Hubbell, his wife and two associates--all charged with tax evasion--mounted a full-scale challenge Tuesday to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's authority to prosecute them.
The defense said Starr, ranging far beyond his authority, pursued Hubbell "relentlessly" and "had his family brought to financial ruin," violating Hubbell's 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination in the process.
The Hubbells, along with accountant Michael C. Schaufele of Little Rock, Ark., and Little Rock tax lawyer Charles C. Owen, were charged with conspiracy, tax evasion, impeding and impairing the Internal Revenue Service and mail fraud.
The indictment contended they conspired to avoid taxes on hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Hubbell from President Clinton's supporters.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson set a trial date of Oct. 5 and also scheduled a June 26 hearing on several pretrial arguments, including a defense motion to dismiss the case.
David Barger, a prosecutor for Starr, predicted the government could present its case at the trial in less than two weeks.
John W. Nields Jr., attorney for Hubbell and his wife, Suzy, said he expected a two to four week trial.
The defense motion to dismiss the indictment contends the case should be handled by the Justice Department, not Starr's office. "The case has nothing to do" with the president's Arkansas land deals--Starr's original assignment--and is only marginally related to a previous Starr prosecution of Hubbell for bilking his former law firm, the motion said.
"If accepted, there would be no knowable limits to an independent counsel's jurisdiction," the motion said. "The independent counsel could stray in as many directions and . . . as far in any given direction as the independent counsel's energy and zeal might take him."
Starr has until June 16 to file a response.
Hubbell, a longtime friend and golfing companion of the president, was a former law partner of Hillary Rodham Clinton and served as associate attorney general early in the Clinton administration.