Former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker was sentenced to four years probation Monday for his Whitewater crimes by a judge who said he deserved mercy because of his chronic liver disease.
Also Monday, the sentencing of President Clinton’s former business partner James McDougal was postponed until after election day amid word he is cooperating with Whitewater prosecutors.
Tucker faced up to 10 years in prison for fraud and conspiracy, and prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. to impose the maximum.
“This was a crime motivated by money. Motivated by the love of money,” Prosecutor W. Ray Jahn said.
But Howard agreed with doctors who testified that prison time could kill the former governor. Given Tucker’s poor health, he said, “A sentence requiring imprisonment would be as cruel as the grave.”
Tucker, 53, said his chronic liver condition - he is on a waiting list for a transplant - and his conviction left him suffering intense personal, professional, family and financial anguish.
Choking back tears three times in a five-minute speech asking for leniency, Tucker sought a sentence “that would offer some prospect for my life to continue to be a useful one for society and for my family.”
Outside the courthouse, Tucker said he was innocent and would continue with appeals.
Howard ordered Tucker to start his probation with 18 months home detention and also pay $150,000 in restitution, plus $120,000 in interest dating from the mid-1980s, along with a $25,000 fine.
The judge also ordered the governor to address 13 junior- and senior-high assemblies across the state and lecture on values, respect for authority and other topics.
“I won’t criticize the judge,” Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr said. “He felt this was a contribution that Tucker could make.”