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Susan McDougal Gets Two Years In Prison

Susan McDougal

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Aug. 20) -- Susan McDougal, one of President Bill Clinton's former Whitewater partners, was sentenced today to two years in prison for her fraud conviction.

U.S. District Judge George Howard imposed three 24-month prison terms to run concurrently, plus three years' probation on a fourth felony charge.

McDougal, who was convicted in late May in the first Whitewater trial, was found guilty of fraudulently obtaining and using a federally-backed loan.

She could have received as much as 17 years in prison and $1 million in fines, and the leniency of the sentence came as a surprise to some trial-watchers.

Kenneth Starr

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr said the message behind the jail term is "that we will not, in fact, tolerate as a society crimes of fraud, and that there is simply no justification for that kind of activity."

At the same time, Starr all but invited Mrs. McDougal to provide any information that could assist in his continuing Whitewater investigation. The prosecution could ask the judge to lighten the sentence. (288K WAV sound)

McDougal's attorney, Bobby McDaniel, called the two-year jail term "excessive," saying Susan McDougal was a minor player in the deal that attracted the prosecutors' attention. "She is devastated," McDaniel said. "She is the pawn of a political agenda." (224K WAV sound)

Bobby McDaniel

"The real story here is if you don't cooperate with the special counsel and do their bidding, they will crush you," McDaniel charged. (256K WAV sound)

On Monday, another figure in the case, former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, got four years' probation, after the judge took into account Tucker's chronic liver disease and need for a liver transplant.

Sentencing of the third figure in the case, Jim McDougal, has been postponed until Nov. 19, because McDougal is involved in discussions with Whitewater prosecutors. He faces up to 84 years in prison and $4.5 million in fines.

Sources told CNN that Jim McDougal has been attempting to arrange lenient treatment for both himself and his ex-wife.

Clinton was not charged with any wrongdoing in the case.

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