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Judge Denies Susan McDougal’s Bid for Release From Jail

September 13, 1996

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) _ A federal judge kept the pressure on Susan McDougal to testify about President Clinton before the Whitewater grand jury, refusing on Friday to free her from jail on a contempt citation.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright rejected arguments that more time behind bars wouldn’t change Mrs. McDougal’s mind.

``The grand jury needs her testimony,″ the judge said. ``If she can’t help them, all she has to do is tell the truth.″

She also ruled Mrs. McDougal, 42, could spend up to 18 months in jail for contempt before her two-year prison sentence for fraud in the Whitewater case begins. Wright said allowing her to serve both sentences at the same time would rob the contempt penalty of its coercive power.

A distraught Mrs. McDougal told the judge that she could not trust Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr and would talk to the grand jury only if someone other than Starr or his deputies asked the questions.

``They have an agenda to ruin the president,″ Mrs. McDougal said. ``They’re after the Clintons and they’re killing me to do it. How can I trust them?″

The judge responded: ``I cannot be your conscience. I can only enforce the law.″

Mrs. McDougal, one of the president’s former Whitewater business partners, was jailed Monday for defying the judge’s order to answer questions about Clinton’s involvement in a fraudulent $300,000 loan and about his truthfulness in videotaped testimony at her trial.

She has steadfastly denied that her silence was urged by the White House or meant to protect the Clintons. She said she feared Whitewater prosecutors would use her words against her or twist them for political purposes.

Mrs. McDougal appeared in court in an orange jailhouse jumpsuit, without shoes. She said the thongs of sandals she was issued hurt her feet, and she didn’t want to limp into court.

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