LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Whitewater figure Susan McDougal, imprisoned for 20 months, should be freed because she has done more time than her co-defendants and may have her conviction overturned, her lawyer said Wednesday.
In court papers, lawyer Mark Geragos asked a federal judge to reduce McDougal's two-year prison sentence to probation.
"Susan has done more time than anybody connected with this investigation," he said. "It makes sense to resentence her and let her out at this point."
His motion argued that McDougal deserves leniency because of recent reports that Whitewater prosecutors knew a key witness against her received payments from a conservative publisher.
"The allegations, if true, would undoubtedly lead to the overturning of her conviction," Geragos said.
Geragos also argued that McDougal, 43, deserved a break because of failing health and the "barbarous conditions" he said she endured for seven months in a Los Angeles County jail.
He said she was kept in leg and arm shackles while visiting with her attorneys, chained to a toilet for hours and housed with convicted murderers and molesters.
Debbie Gershman, a spokeswoman for Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr, said prosecutors had not seen a copy of Geragos' motion.
McDougal was sentenced in 1996 to two years in prison for fraud relating to an illegal $300,000 loan she received. She began serving that sentence in March after completing an 18-month civil contempt term for refusing to talk to the Whitewater grand jury.
She has served more time than her ex-husband, James B. McDougal, who died after less than a year in prison, and former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, who was sentenced to home detention. All three were convicted in the same trial.
On Monday, Susan McDougal was indicted on an obstruction of justice charge and two criminal contempt counts for refusing to talk to grand jurors about the 1980s business dealings of President Clinton and the first lady.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner stepped aside from hearing the case, saying it could involve his colleague and family friend, Judge Susan Webber Wright. Wright cited Susan McDougal with civil contempt and supervised the grand jury that indicted her.