- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2006

The Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear an appeal from former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, who asked the justices to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea to tax charges in the Whitewater investigation, closing the door on the 12-year, $60 million probe.

Tucker, who in 1996 was found guilty by a federal jury of conspiracy and mail fraud and later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, said through his Little Rock attorney, Jeffrey Rosenzweig, that an appeals court wrongly denied him a new hearing on whether the plea was voluntary.

The justices did not comment in refusing to hear the appeal. In 2004, they declined to consider whether Tucker, who resigned his office after his conviction, was wrongly barred from raising new arguments in challenging his tax conspiracy conviction.

Called the “Whitewater investigation” because of its ties to a questionable real estate development on the banks of the White River in the Arkansas Ozarks, the probe netted 14 convictions or guilty pleas, including those of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Whitewater Development Corp. business partners, James and Susan McDougal, and one-time Associate Attorney General Webster L. Hubbell, a law partner of Mrs. Clinton’s at Little Rock’s Rose Law Firm.

The investigation formally ended in September 2000, less legal appeals, when independent counsel Robert W. Ray declared there was “insufficient evidence” to bring charges against the Clintons. In an announcement seven weeks before the Nov. 7, 2000, presidential election, Mr. Ray said the lengthy probe, which focused on accusations that the Clintons obstructed justice and gave false testimony, was “now closed.”

At the time, the White House, which had vilified Mr. Ray’s predecessor, Kenneth W. Starr, portrayed the Ray report as vindication.

The Whitewater investigation, begun in 1994 by special prosecutor Robert B. Fiske, focused on accusations that the Clintons knowingly participated in criminal conduct related to Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association, the Little Rock thrift owned by the McDougals. The thrift failed in 1994 at a cost to taxpayers of $73 million.

The McDougals and Tucker were convicted in a $3.13 million scheme involving bogus loans through Madison Guaranty, which the McDougals owned.

The probe netted 14 guilty verdicts or pleas, including Hubbell, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, mail fraud and concealment by scheme; Tucker, who was found guilty of conspiracy and mail fraud and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service; McDougal, convicted by a jury of 18 felonies in Madison’s collapse; and Mrs. McDougal, convicted of four felonies.

Other Clinton associates, bankers and real estate officials pleaded guilty to six felonies and eight misdemeanor charges in the case.

Mrs. McDougal was sentenced to two years, but served only 105 days before a judge released her because of a back problem. But she served 18 months on a contempt citation sought by Mr. Starr for refusing to testify before a grand jury about Mr. Clinton’s role in the Whitewater affair.

With less than two hours remaining in his presidency, Mr. Clinton pardoned Mrs. McDougal. It was among 140 pardons and 36 commutations signed by the president as he prepared to leave office.

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