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|August 25, 1998||
Clinton's travails delay Zubin's case against ex-employee
Arthur Pais in Los Angeles
Had the White Water investigation, Monica Lewinsky and her dress not intervened, Zubin Mehta might have had his day in the court five years ago, trying to prove to a jury that Susan McDougal had embezzled with over $150,000 from him and his wife Nancy.
McDougal, a friend of President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, worked as a personal assistant to the Mehtas in this city for several years, starting in 1989.
The Mehtas were aware of her association with the Clintons at the time she was hired as their book-keeper.
She is charged with the use of the Mehtas' credit cards to buy herself clothing, travel and other luxuries.
The world renowned conductor and his wife had hired McDougal to also help them in their real estate business.
Susan McDougal has said the use of credit cards was a misunderstanding and that she was convinced that the Mehtas had given her the permission to use the cards to compensate her for her real estate work.
The Mehtas have denied that they ever authorised her to use their credit cards.
But the Mehta case was put on the backburner because McDougal figured in the Whitewater probe of independent counsellor Kenneth Starr. It was because of that involvement that the Mehtas had to wait for over five years before their case came before a jury here last week.
McDougal and her ex-husband James McDougal (who died recently) were involved with Bill Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas, and Hillary Clinton in a real estate venture called Whitewater.
Starr was trying to find out if there were irregularities and whether the Clintons used their office to financially help the ailing Whitewater business.
While James McDougal co-operated with Starr and told him stories about alleged scam at Whitewater, Susan McDougal refused to deal with Starr. She claimed that Starr was such a partisan that whatever she said could be used against her.
For refusing to co-operate with Starr she was jailed. She was released recently after serving three-and-a-half years in a prison. Her release came following medical reports that she had severe back problems and had to undergo surgery.
The trial will take place in the wealthy Santa Monica City, about half an hour's drive from Los Angeles.
A judge told a panel of 75 prospective jurors last week that this case should be judged on its own, and the jurors will have to disregard whatever they have heard or read about the Whitewater scandal and about McDougal's ties with the Clintons.
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