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Trial of Whitewater’s Hale Delayed

April 24, 1998

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Whitewater figure David Hale, who tried unsuccessfully to delay a state trial through appeals, will get a week’s reprieve because he was admitted to a hospital with complaints of chest pain.

Prosecutors were visibly shaken at the delay, which came an hour before the scheduled start Thursday of Hale’s trial on charges of lying to state insurance regulators.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge David Bogard delayed the trial a week, saying it could take a day or two for doctors to evaluate Hale.

Prosecutors initially were suspicious of Hale’s hospital stay and worried that word of his illness could sway jurors.

``We don’t like it. We think it’s advantageous to the defense,″ Prosecutor Larry Jegley said.

Hale went to Baptist Medical Center complaining of chest pains, shortness of breath, faintness and numbness in his arm, said defense lawyer David Bowden.

Hale, 56, had a device implanted in his chest last summer to regulate an irregular heartbeat.

``He has very serious health problems,″ Hale lawyer Tona DeMers said. ``It is a very unstable, critical condition.″

A hospital spokeswoman said she couldn’t release Hale’s condition.

The delay posed scheduling problems for the prosecution. One state witness had traveled from Tanzania and was to take the 37-hour return flight to Africa on Saturday. Both sides discussed the possibility of videotaping the witness’s testimony in Hale’s hospital room.

Hale, a key witness in the 1996 Whitewater trial of James and Susan McDougal and then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, is accused of lying to insurance regulators about the solvency of a burial insurance company the state says he owned.

Hale pleaded guilty in the Whitewater investigation in 1994 to fraud and served 28 months in prison. He had argued that immunity granted in that case in a plea deal protected him from state trial, but his appeals were not successful.

If convicted of the state charge, Hale could face up to eight years in prison and be fined as much as $5,000.