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Whitewater Prosecutors Rest In Trial of Two Bankers

July 9, 1996

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Whitewater prosecutors rested their case today after a banker’s secretary said her boss gave her money in 1990 and 1991 to contribute to Bill Clinton’s campaigns.

The judge scheduled hearings for later in the day on defense motions for acquittal and let the jury go home until Wednesday afternoon. The judge and lawyers also set a meeting to discuss when President Clinton’s testimony would be played.

The judge said she anticipated the defense would begin presenting testimony Wednesday afternoon in the trial of two bankers who are accused of misapplying money from their bank to make political contributions.

Herby Branscum Jr. and Robert M. Hill also are accused of hiding from the Internal Revenue Service large cash transactions made by Clinton’s 1990 gubernatorial campaign from their Perry County Bank.

The secretary, Debbie Halbrook, said Branscum wrote her a $600 check in June 1990 and a $500 check in September 1991. Branscum asked her to give the money to Clinton’s last gubernatorial campaign and his presidential exploratory committee, she testified.

She said she and her husband Wes each wrote $250 checks to each campaign. She did not account for the extra $100.

``I believe Mr. Branscum asked me, if he would give me these funds, would we write them back out to the Clinton campaign? I agreed to do so,″ Mrs. Halbrook testified as the trial entered its fourth week.

``Did he tell you why he wanted to run these through your account?″ chief prosecutor W. Hickman Ewing Jr. asked.

``I believe he said he had met his contribution limit,″ Mrs. Halbrook said.

The 20th and final government witness was an IRS agent who testified about a series of interviews of a former Perry County Bank president beginning in June 1994, three months after the president resigned abruptly from the bank.

Agent James Pierce said Neal T. Ainley’s story has been consistent since July 1994. The defense has made a point that Ainley changed his story to win reduced penalties for his role in crimes at the bank.

Ainley was sentenced in January to two years’ probation for failing to report Clinton campaign withdrawals of $30,000 and $22,500. Ainley testified against the bankers and said it was his understanding that Clinton campaign treasurer Bruce Lindsey, now a White House aide, didn’t want the transactions reported to the IRS.

Clinton, subpoenaed by the defense, testified for nearly 2 1/2 hours before a television camera Sunday. It was his second appearance for a set of criminal defendants in 10 weeks.

Prosecutors say the bankers misused money from their bank because of their desire for political power.

Clinton appointed Branscum to the Highway Commission in 1991 and reappointed Hill to the state Banking Board later that year, but prosecutors do not allege any quid pro quo. Clinton has not been charged.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney Dan Guthrie attempted to show that the funds Branscum gave Mrs. Halbrook were from Branscum’s law office account _ not from the bank.

The appointment came five weeks after Hill and an associate delivered at least $13,000 to Clinton at the governor’s office and discussed the highway post. Prosecutors say $7,000 of the money delivered to Clinton at the Dec. 14, 1990, meeting were from bank funds.

Clinton’s testimony Sunday came less than three months after he testified for 4 1/2 hours in the trial of Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and James and Susan McDougal. The three were later convicted and Tucker subsequently announced his resignation by Monday. Sentencing is set for Aug. 19.

The judge has ordered Clinton’s testimony sealed until it is played before jurors, perhaps sometime this week.

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