By Bill Miller
Hubbell, 50, a former top Justice Department official and close friend of President Clinton, declined comment after a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington. He and the other defendants pleaded not guilty last month. Lawyers on both sides predicted that the trial -- covering an exhaustive paper trail -- will take up to four weeks.
Defense lawyers have filed a flurry of motions with Judge James Robertson in recent days seeking to have the 10-count indictment dismissed. Hubbell's attorney, John W. Nields Jr., contends that independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr overstepped his bounds by pursuing the federal tax evasion and fraud charges. Nields wrote that the case should have been investigated by the Justice Department.
Hubbell was a partner with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, working there from the late 1970s until January 1993, when he moved to Washington to become associate attorney general. He left the Justice Department in March 1994 amid an investigation into billing irregularities at the law firm. He wound up serving an 18-month federal sentence after pleading guilty in December 1994 to embezzling from the law firm's clients and partners in a case that was brought in Little Rock by Starr.
Starr initially focused on Hubbell as part of his long-running Whitewater investigation of the Clintons' Arkansas business dealings, in which Hillary Clinton's activities at the Rose Law Firm have come under scrutiny. That, in turn, led to Starr's pursuit of the Hubbell charges stemming from the law firm's billing practices. The new indictment concerns income that Hubbell received after he left the Justice Department.
The new indictment alleges that Hubbell, his wife Suzanna, the couple's accountant Michael C. Schaufele and tax lawyer Charles Owen conspired to evade paying taxes and conceal income. The Hubbells allegedly owed back taxes and penalties of close to $900,000 but paid less than $30,000 between 1994 and 1997, when they earned more than $1 million, the indictment said.
Starr's investigators have been attempting to determine if White House aides and Democratic Party fund-raisers sought to buy Hubbell's silence on Whitewater matters by lining up consulting fees for which Hubbell did little or no work. The new indictment makes no mention of such allegations.
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