LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas denied Whitewater figure David Hale's request to dismiss a state charge of lying to insurance regulators, clearing the way for his trial to begin.

The scheduled three-day trial was to open today with jury selection.

In his request to Thomas, Hale contended that immunity granted him in a federal plea agreement with Whitewater prosecutors should shield him from state prosecution.

``I think we have exhausted pretty much everything I can think of to get the government to live up to its bargain with David Hale,'' Hale attorney David Bowden said of Thomas' ruling Tuesday.

Hale was charged in July 1996 with filing a false or misleading statement with the state insurance department about a burial insurance company the state says he owned.

The charge came just months after Hale testified in a Whitewater trial against then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and President Clinton's former business partners, James and Susan McDougal. All three were convicted.

Hale claims the state charge, brought by then-Prosecutor Mark Stodola, was retaliation for his cooperation with Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

Hale tried to block the trial in Pulaski County Circuit Court, federal district court and a federal appeals court before going to Thomas.

The trial was delayed several times because of Hale's health. He had a device implanted in his chest last summer to regulate his heartbeat.

``I'm probably more ready than anyone to get this thing over with regardless of the outcome,'' said Prosecutor Larry Jegley, who succeeded Stodola. ``It's been far too long and far too many baseless allegations made as to the motivations and reasons behind this prosecution, all of which have been disproved.''

In the Whitewater investigation, Hale pleaded guilty in 1994 to two federal felony fraud counts and was sentenced to 28 months in prison, which he served. He remains under three years' probation.

Hale could receive up to eight years in prison and a $5,000 fine, Jegley said.