- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2009

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) | The transcript of Whitewater figure Susan McDougal’s grand jury testimony will remain sealed, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

Mrs. McDougal sought the records for a screenplay or novel about the investigation into her business relationship with Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis rejected her request.

Judge Diana E. Murphy wrote that Mrs. McDougal failed to show she had a “particularized need” for the records, siding with a special judge who rejected her request last June.

Though the need for grand jury secrecy diminishes at the end of hearings, Judge Murphy wrote that there is no statute that specifically authorizes releasing the records after their completion.

Mrs. McDougal claimed court clerks sealed more of the grand jury proceedings than actually requested by the judge who oversaw the panel’s work - a point Judge Murphy acknowledged could be the case. However, Mrs. McDougal failed to ask a lower court judge to review the records privately to determine whether a seal over the records was too broad, Judge Murphy wrote.

Judges Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. and Lavenski R. Smith concurred with Judge Murphy’s decision.

Mrs. McDougal could not be reached for comment Friday. Her lawyer, Bobby McDaniel of Jonesboro, did not immediately return a message left at his office.

Mrs. McDougal was convicted of fraud and conspiracy in the probe that produced convictions of 14 people, including Mrs. McDougal’s husband, James, former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, and Mrs. Clinton’s law partner, Webster Hubbell. The case also morphed into the special-prosecutor probe that ended with Mr. Clinton becoming the first elected president in American history to be impeached.

After serving two months of a two-year prison sentence, Mrs. McDougal served 18 months in jail for civil contempt based on her refusal to answer grand jury questions.

She then was indicted on criminal counts for refusing to talk to the grand jury in 1996 and 1998. At the time, she said she thought she’d be charged with perjury unless she falsely implicated the Clintons.

A federal jury acquitted her in 1999 of an obstruction of justice charge, but deadlocked on two contempt counts. She was not retried, and then-President Clinton pardoned her before he left office in 2001.

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