Dale on Witness Stand in Travel Office Trial
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Testifying in his own embezzlement trial Tuesday, the former head of the White House travel office admitted putting media funds into his personal bank account but denied using the money for personal expenses.
Billy R. Dale testified in U.S. District Court that he cashed 55 checks totaling more than $54,000 from news organizations and deposited the funds in his own checking account.
But when asked whether the money was used to build a lake-front home or pay other personal bills, Dale, soft-spoken and slouching, answered simply, ``No, sir.″
Dale also is accused of stealing another $14,000 from the media by making cash withdrawals from a travel office bank account.
His attorneys say Dale, as director of the office that made travel arrangements for the White House press corps, deposited the checks so he would have cash on hand for incidental, legitimate travel expenses.
In his first day of testimony in U.S. District Court, Dale told the jury of his humble beginnings as the eldest son of a Virginia coal miner, his four years in the Air Force, and the middle-class lifestyle he shares with his wife, Blanche, and their three grown children.
Dale was scheduled to resume the witness stand on Wednesday. His testimony Tuesday stood in sharp contrast to the prosecution’s portrayal of the Dales as a family that lived beyond its means and used stolen money to build a swimming pool and buy a six-bedroom vacation home on Lake Anna in Virginia.
Dale took the witness stand Tuesday after a parade of high-profile Washington journalists, including ABC News’ Sam Donaldson, testified as character witnesses on Dale’s behalf.
``We talk a lot in the press room. Usually we’re slamming the president whether he deserves it or not,″ said Donaldson, who covered the White House from 1977 to 1989. ``But in talking about people, anytime you’d bring up Dale, it was always something complimentary.″
A 31-year veteran of the travel office, Dale is at the center of one of the Clinton administration’s earliest controversies.
Dale and six other longtime travel office employees were summarily fired by the Clinton White House in May 1993 amid efforts to replace them with employees of a Little Rock, Ark. firm that had worked on Clinton’s campaign.
A subsequent internal review of the firings concluded they were mishandled and five of the employees were offered other government jobs.