A federal judge Tuesday dismissed one of two indictments against Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker on grounds that the prosecutor, Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, exceeded his authority in bringing the case.
U.S. District Judge Henry Woods threw out a June tax fraud and conspiracy indictment of Tucker and two other men involved with him in a cable television venture, saying the case “bears no relation whatsoever” to the questions Starr was charged with investigating.
A bank fraud indictment of Tucker handed up last month still stands.
The 21-page ruling touches on the controversial question of how broad a special prosecutor’s authority should be in pursuing evidence not directly connected with the central focus of an investigation.
Woods agreed with Tucker’s lawyers that the allegations had nothing to do with the independent counsel’s mandate to investigate the relationships between two defunct Arkansas lending institutions and the two couples who owned the Whitewater Development Corp. - Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton and James and Susan McDougal.
It wasn’t enough, the judge said, that Starr “fortuitously stumbled across the defendants’ alleged violation of law.”
Appearing before Woods in Little Rock on Tuesday morning, Starr argued that his evidence against Tucker was sufficiently related to the main areas of his investigation to justify his bringing an indictment.
Even if Woods did not agree, said Starr, the judge did not have the authority to limit the powers of an independent counsel’s activity.
But Woods disagreed.
“I cannot accept the proposition that a citizen can be put on trial in my court for a loss of his liberty, and that no court has the power to determine whether there is jurisdiction to proceed in the matter,” he wrote.