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Susan McDougal Testifies in Defense

October 28, 1998

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ Whitewater figure Susan McDougal told jurors Wednesday that she enjoyed a warm friendship with the woman accusing her of embezzling $150,000.

Ms. McDougal portrayed Nancy Mehta as a generous woman who took her shopping soon after they met, insisted on lavishing gifts of clothing on her and later hired her as a bookkeeper and assistant.

``You have to understand, the Nancy that was in this courtroom was not the Nancy that I met,″ Ms. McDougal said. ``Nancy and I really got along well.″

Ms. McDougal said her fiance at the time, Pat Harris, was working for Mrs. Mehta, wife of conductor Zubin Mehta, and she was at first trying to make a good impression on his employer.

Ms. McDougal said she later lost her own job and Mrs. Mehta hired her. Mrs. Mehta ``was climbing mountains to be with gorillas″ at the time of the call, Ms. McDougal said.

Ms. McDougal is accused of stealing the money while employed by the Mehtas from 1989 to 1992, when she was fired.

The charges are not related to the issues in the federal investigation of the Whitewater land deal in Arkansas that has involved President Clinton, Ms. McDougal and her late husband, James McDougal.

Superior Court Judge Leslie Light has barred any mention of Whitewater or Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr during Mrs. McDougal’s trial. Mrs. McDougal spent 18 months in prison for refusing to give testimony against the president.

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