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Kenneth W. Starr
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Key Player: Kenneth Starr

Starr Warriors (Washington Post, Feb. 3)


The Prosecutors

Tuesday, September 22, 1998; Page A20

  • Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr is a former appellate judge who since 1994 has run an aggressive and ever-expanding investigation into the First Family's finances, the White House travel office firings and the gathering of FBI files at the White House. Since January, he has been investigating whether President Clinton lied under oath in the Paula Jones sexual harassment civil case and obstructed justice to conceal an affair with former White House aide Monica S. Lewinsky.

    A 52-year-old native Texan, Starr is a former minister's son. He spent two years at Harding College, a Church of Christ school in Searcy, Ark., before transferring to George Washington University. He received a law degree from Duke University, served as a law clerk for Warren Burger when Burger was chief justice of the Supreme Court and joined the Washington office of the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Starr was an acolyte of Ronald Reagan's first attorney general, William French Smith, for whom he went to work at the Justice Department in 1981. Reagan then appointed Starr as a federal appellate judge, after which Starr served as solicitor general in the Bush administration. On a special assignment for Congress in 1993, Starr read and evaluated the diaries of then-Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), who resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct.

  • Robert Bittman, 36, the tough prosecutor who asked many of the questions during Clinton's testimony before the grand jury, joined the independent counsel's office soon after Starr's appointment in 1994. He has investigated first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, run Starr's Little Rock office and since January had responsibility for the day-to-day oversight of the Lewinsky investigation. Early in the inquiry, Bittman opposed making an immunity deal with Lewinsky, and instead called for an exhaustive examination to test her assertions about an affair with the president, including questioning Secret Service officers and agents.

    Bittman came under criticism in the spring when he went to court to try to enforce a subpoena of Lewinsky's book purchase records, arguing that prosecutors had examined the reading habits of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh and Unabomber Theodore J. Kaczynski. The fifth child of prominent former federal prosecutor William O. Bittman, who as a young prosecutor in the 1960s convicted Teamsters head Jimmy Hoffa and Lyndon B. Johnson's close friend Bobby Baker, Bittman spent six years as an assistant state's attorney in Anne Arundel County. One of his most high-profile cases came in 1993, when he prosecuted an Anne Arundel schoolteacher who allegedly had oral sex with a 14-year-old boy. The teacher was acquitted on counts of child abuse, unnatural and perverted offenses and fourth-degree sexual offense, and jurors criticized the prosecutor's case.

    Bittman attended the University of Maryland and law school at Catholic University.

  • Solomon L. Wisenberg was known in San Antonio as a deft prosecutor of complex financial crimes. But in Washington he developed a different sort of niche after joining the Starr team in January 1997: the expert on the evidence in the Lewinsky case. Wisenberg, 44, spent more time with the Lewinsky grand jury than any of the other prosecutors, and brought his expansive knowledge of the case to bear in his detailed, sometimes invasive questioning of Clinton. A former federal prosecutor in Raleigh, N.C., and San Antonio – where in 1993 he won conviction of 11 defendants for conspiring to defraud San Antonio's Victoria Savings Association of $200 million – Wisenberg came highly recommended by W. Ray Jahn, another former deputy of Starr's from San Antonio who was lead prosecutor in the 1996 trial of former Arkansas governor Jim Guy Tucker and James B. and Susan McDougal, the Clintons' former business partners in the Whitewater land deal.

    Wisenberg attended the University of Texas law school.

  • Jackie M. Bennett Jr., 41, who sparred with Clinton toward the end of his four-hour testimony, is a formidable former Justice Department public integrity prosecutor from Indiana. He has a record of successful but controversial prosecutions. His most famous case before joining Starr's staff was his 1993 conviction of former representative Albert Bustamante (D-Tex.) on racketeering and bribery charges. He won the Justice Department's highest honor for that case, and it drew the attention of Starr, who was looking for prosecutors for his then-incipient Whitewater investigation.

    In a 1992 failed prosecution of a San Antonio businessmen, Bennett was criticized by U.S. District Judge Lucius Bunton, who called the case "a waste of time." Bunton wrote an article this year in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram calling Bennett an "overzealous prosecutor."

    A former football player from a blue-collar background, Bennett attended Hanover College and the Indiana University School of Law at night. He also had a three-year stint as an assistant U.S. attorney in Indianapolis before moving to Washington as Justice's senior trial attorney in the public integrity division.

    – By Jeff Glasser


    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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