A L S O+T O D A Y
The unhappiest allies
Day Two: The airstrikes persist
T A B L E+T A L K
Don't ask, don't Teletubbie? Know of any other gay icons for children? Do tell in the Headlines area of Table Talk
R E C E N T L Y
The bombing begins
The Kosovo myth
Banned in Belgrade
Where does Elizabeth Dole really stand on abortion?
Susan McDougal's moment of truth
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Verdict on Starr's witness
BY MURRAY S. WAAS AND SUZI PARKER | LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- David Hale, the central witness to the Whitewater investigation of independent counsel Kenneth Starr, was convicted late Thursday night on charges that he deceived Arkansas regulators about the solvency of an insurance company that he once owned. But he was sentenced to only 21 days in prison, as jurors seemed to honor pleas for leniency, given Hale's health problems.
Hale was convicted of a single felony count of placing $150,000 into the bank account of his National Savings Life Insurance Company, only to withdraw the funds days later. Arkansas prosecutors charged that those bank transfers were sham transactions designed by Hale to lead insurance regulators to falsely believe the firm was solvent so that they would not shut it down.
The conviction of Hale on the state charges was a setback to Starr's four-year, $40 million Whitewater probe. Hale has been the most important witness to the Whitewater phase of Starr's investigation, and this new criminal conviction only raises additional questions about the reliability of Hale as a federal witness.
Hale's testimony in federal court in 1996 helped Starr convict then-Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, and James and Susan McDougal, the Clintons' partners in their failed Whitewater real estate investment, on fraud charges.
More importantly, Hale has also been Starr's chief witness against President Clinton: Hale had alleged that in l986, while Hale headed a federally subsidized lending company, then-Arkansas Gov. Clinton pressured him to make a fraudulent and illegal $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal.
In the fall of 1997, Starr considered sending an impeachment referral to the House of Representatives alleging there was evidence that Clinton had committed perjury to a federal jury by denying under oath that he had pressured Hale to make the loan to Susan McDougal, according to federal law enforcement sources. The referral ultimately was not sent, because many on Starr's staff believed that there was not enough evidence to substantiate Hale's claims.
A later consideration of making such a referral was stymied, sources said, because Hale had by then become the focus of a seperate federal grand jury investigation into his allegedly receiving cash payments and gratuities from conservative political activists.
N E X T+P A G E+| Starr's claims "hogwash"
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