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Susan McDougal Case Goes To Jury

November 19, 1998

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ The embezzlement case against Susan McDougal was given to a jury Wednesday that was instructed not to consider whether the prosecution had ulterior motives in bringing the case.

After the jury had left, the judge said it wouldn’t surprise him if Kenneth Starr had offered to get the charges dropped if Ms. McDougal cooperated in the Whitewater probe against President Clinton.

``But that has nothing to do with whether the charges are true or not,″ Superior Court Judge Leslie Light said.

The jury spent less than two hours deliberating before retiring for the day.

Ms. McDougal is accused of stealing $50,000 from conductor Zubin Mehta and his wife, Nancy, while working as a bookkeeper and personal assistant during 1989-92. She faces up to four years in prison if convicted of theft and failing to file state tax returns.

Ms. McDougal, 44, spent 18 months in jail for refusing to testify before Starr’s grand jury investigating Clinton and the Whitewater real estate deal in Arkansas. She also served 3 1/2 months of a two-year sentence for fraud-related felonies involving a $300,000 loan.

Light said he tried to keep Whitewater out of the embezzlement case, fearing an extended and confusing trial and that prosecutors might be looked at as ``just puppets for Kenneth Starr.″ He also noted Starr was appointed after the embezzlement charges were filed.

The defense has claimed Starr’s team promised to make the charges go away if Ms. McDougal would testify in the Whitewater probe.

In closing statements, the defense portrayed Mrs. Mehta as a liar who hid financial records until just before the trial began.

Prosecutor Jeffrey Semow described Mrs. McDougal as ``a con artist″ who took advantage of her hapless employer. He argued that Mrs. Mehta was confused and ignorant of business affairs.

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