A special investigation into whether conservative critics of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton gave support or cash payments to witness David Hale to influence his testimony has concluded that many of the allegations of such payments were "unsubstantiated" and "in some cases, untrue," and that no criminal prosecution should be brought.
These conclusions--brief excerpts from a 168-page report--were released yesterday by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, effectively closing a case that some Clinton supporters had hoped would offer proof of a "right-wing conspiracy" against the first couple. A spokesman for Starr, Elizabeth Ray, said the full report would not be released because it contained confidential grand jury information.
The report was written by Michael J. Shaheen, former director of the Justice Department's office of professional responsibility, who was retained as an independent investigator to examine allegations that Hale--a witness used extensively by Starr--had been improperly tainted by Clinton enemies who gave him financial support.
The Associated Press first reported last year that the girlfriend of a bait shop owner in Arkansas named Parker Dozhier had claimed that Dozhier regularly gave cash to Hale. Hale also sometimes stayed at a fishing camp owned by Dozhier and used his car.
Dozhier, who has denied giving Hale money, was himself paid nearly $50,000 by the American Spectator magazine for negative information on the Clintons. The magazine's "Arkansas Project" was funded by $2.3 million from foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife, a conservative philanthropist.
Hale also has denied receiving cash from Dozhier. His attorney, David Bowden, could not be reached for comment.
Shaheen's investigation concluded that "[i]n some instances there is little if any credible evidence establishing that a particular thing of value was demanded [by Hale], offered [to him] or received [by him]. In other instances, there is insufficient credible evidence to show that a thing of value was provided or received with . . . criminal intent."
In 1994, Hale, a former judge, pleaded guilty to defrauding the Small Business Administration and served 20 months in prison. He became a star witness for Starr's prosecutors in several Arkansas cases, including a real estate case in which then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker was convicted and forced from office.
Hale repeatedly testified that then-Gov. Bill Clinton had pressured him to make an improper $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal, one of Clinton's partners in the Whitewater land deal. But Hale offered no supporting evidence for this accusation, and Starr never embraced it.
If Shaheen's investigation had found evidence that Hale was a tainted witness because of support he received from politically motivated outsiders, Starr's prosecutions of Tucker and others could have been called into question.
Early this year, Shaheen presented his report to two retired federal judges, Arlin Adams and Charles Renfrew, who were named to supervise his inquiry and assure its independence from Starr's office. But the judges initially did not accept the report as final, delaying its completion. Renfrew declined to explain the delay in a telephone interview last night.