Hubbell Pleads Innocent in Third Case
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 24, 1998; Page A13
Webster L. Hubbell yesterday pleaded not guilty for the third time in a case brought against him by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, asserting that he did not seek to illegally cover up work that he and Hillary Rodham Clinton did for a failed Arkansas savings and loan.
"I am not guilty," Hubbell told U.S. District Judge James Robertson in a loud and clear voice. His attorney, John W. Nields Jr., told the judge that Hubbell wants "as early a trial date as he can possibly get" on the 15-count indictment.
Many of the charges concern legal work in the mid-1980s that Hubbell and Hillary Clinton did for Madison Guaranty, the thrift owned by the late James B. McDougal, the Clintons' partner in the Whitewater land development. The indictment does not accuse Hillary Clinton of wrongdoing but obliquely mentions her as Hubbell's "partner" some 35 times.
A former golfing friend of President Clinton who served as a top Justice Department official in Clinton's first term, Hubbell declined to comment as he left the courthouse. Nields said he plans to seek dismissal of all or most of the charges in motions that will be heard by Robertson on Feb. 12. A trial, Robertson said, could be convened in March.
Hubbell has accused Starr in the past of unfairly targeting him as a way of pressuring him to implicate the Clintons in the independent counsel's long-running Whitewater investigation. After the new charges were filed Nov. 13, Nields accused Starr of "indicting the same person over and over again."
In July, Nields won a round against Starr when he persuaded Robertson to dismiss a tax evasion case against Hubbell filed by the independent counsel. The charges were thrown out two months after indictment, a remarkably quick result. Prosecutors are appealing that ruling, in which Robertson accused Starr of ranging too far afield of his mandate.
For years, Starr's prosecutors have viewed Hubbell as a key link to unraveling the complex Whitewater saga. A former associate attorney general, Hubbell came into focus because he was a former partner with Hillary Clinton at the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas and worked on Whitewater-related issues.
He pleaded guilty in December 1994 to two felony charges stemming from his billing practices at the law firm and served an 18-month sentence. As part of his guilty plea, Hubbell agreed to cooperate with Starr's office in the Whitewater probe. But after a series of meetings with prosecutors, Hubbell declared that he would provide no more assistance, saying that his answers had only led Starr to aim additional investigations in his direction.
In particular, prosecutors remain suspicious of $700,000 in consulting fees paid to Hubbell by Clinton allies after he left the Justice Department. Starr wants to determine if those fees, which prosecutors say were paid for little or no work, were given to Hubbell to keep him quiet about Whitewater.
Nields said he will ask the judge to dismiss at least six of the new charges on grounds that they were covered by the 1994 plea agreement.
The latest indictment accuses Hubbell of lying to federal regulators and Congress about work he performed with Hillary Clinton on Madison's Castle Grande project, a problem-plagued real estate development that helped trigger the S&L's collapse. The Rose Law Firm, with Hubbell as lead attorney, was hired by federal banking regulators in the late 1980s to sue Madison's former accountants after the thrift failed. Hubbell is charged with concealing the fact that Rose had represented Madison and thus had a conflict of interest in the case.
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