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Lawyer Argues for McDougal Release

May 7, 1998

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ A burdensome prison stay and allegations that one of her chief accusers was paid by a conservative publisher are reason enough to free Whitewater convict Susan McDougal, her attorney said.

Mark Geragos asked a federal judge in court papers filed Wednesday to reconsider Mrs. McDougal’s two-year prison sentence and instead give her probation.

``Susan has done more time than anybody connected with this investigation and, since she was the most peripherally involved, it makes sense to resentence her and let her out,″ Geragos said outside the federal courthouse.

His motion also argued that Mrs. McDougal deserves leniency because of recent reports that Whitewater prosecutors knew a key witness against her received payments from a conservative publisher.

``The allegations, if true, would undoubtedly lead to the overturning of her conviction,″ Geragos wrote.

Geragos said Mrs. McDougal, 43, deserved a break because of the ``barbarous conditions″ she endured for seven months in a Los Angeles County jail.

He said she was kept in leg and arm shackles while visiting with her attorneys, chained to a toilet for hours and isolated among convicted murderers, molesters and abusers. He also said she was not allowed out of her cell for recreational activities available to other prisoners.

Debbie Gershman, a spokeswoman for Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, said prosecutors had not seen a copy of Geragos’ motion and would respond to his motion in court.

Mrs. McDougal was sentenced in 1996 to two years in prison for fraud relating to an illegal $300,000 loan she received. She began serving that sentence in March after completing an 18-month civil contempt term for refusing to talk to the Whitewater grand jury.

She has served more time than her ex-husband, James McDougal, who died after less than a year in prison, and former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, who was sentenced to home detention. All three were convicted in the same trial.

On Monday, Mrs. McDougal was indicted on an obstruction of justice charge and two criminal contempt counts for refusing to talk to grand jurors about the 1980s business dealings of President and Hillary Rodham Clinton. The McDougals and the Clintons were business partners.

The criminal contempt charges carry an open-ended prison term set by a federal judge and obstruction of justice carries a maximum 10-year prison term.

U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner stepped aside from Mrs. McDougal’s contempt case Wednesday, saying he thought it could involve his colleague and friend Judge Susan Webber Wright.

The case was reassigned through random selection to Wright, who also could remove herself from the case. Wright cited Mrs. McDougal with civil contempt in September 1996 and supervised the grand jury that indicted Mrs. McDougal.

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