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Starr Witness Off The Hook

A yearlong investigation of alleged witness tampering in Kenneth Starr's Whitewater probe found "insufficient credible evidence" that conservatives paid Starr's key witness in an attempt to influence his testimony.

Starr's office said Wednesday that a special investigator hired to look into whether David Hale received money and other benefits, found that many of the allegations were "unsubstantiated or, in some cases, untrue." Special investigator Michael Shaheen concluded that no charges should be filed in connection with the probe.

Shaheen's investigation focused on allegations that Hale may have been bribed by activists working on a project for the American Spectator magazine that was funded by a wealthy Clinton critic.

Starr hired Shaheen, a retired Justice Department official, to look into the allegations. "The conclusion has been accepted by the Office of Independent Counsel and this matter, consequently, is now concluded," Shaheen said in a letter to Starr.

In early 1998 reports surfaced that Hale stayed rent-free in a fishing cabin, had the use of a car and received other perks from conservative activists while he was cooperating with Starr's Whitewater investigation.

A disgraced former Arkansas judge, Hale pleaded guilty to two felonies in 1994 and became Starr's top witness against Clinton and his Whitewater business partners.

The activists, who assisted Hale during the Whitewater probe, were reportedly being paid by the conservative American Spectator magazine to unearth information about the land deal.

In turn, it was alleged, the magazine had received $1.7 million from foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife. Historically the billionaire's foundations had given millions to anti-Clinton groups and Scaife had donated money to Pepperdine University, where Starr was offered a job.

Clinton supporters saw the alleged ties between Hale and Scaife-funded activists as proof of what Hillary Rodham Clinton called a "vast right-wing conspiracy" bent on discrediting the president.

Starr had maintained that the alleged contacts between Hale and conservative activists likely took place before he took over the Whitewater investigation.

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