Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's office has a "scary" view of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, a federal judge said Friday.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson made the comment while hearing arguments on motions to dismiss an indictment of presidential friend Webster Hubbell.The judge sharply questioned prosecutors about their handling of the tax evasion indictment against Hubbell and three others but did not immediately rule on the motions.
When prosecutor Stephen Binhak conceded that the indictment was based on records Hubbell was compelled to produce under a grant of limited immunity, Robertson said: "That's really scary."
Hubbell, a former top Justice Department official, was given immunity only after first refusing to provide the records - citing his Fifth Amendment protection. Hubbell's initial refusal, his attorney John Nields argued, came after Hubbell realized the records showed payments from consultants that he never reported on his tax returns.
The judge's stinging remark followed a series of recent setbacks for Starr. They include the Supreme Court decision that a lawyer for White House aide Vincent Foster does not have to surrender notes taken in conversations shortly before Foster killed himself; the release of Clinton business partner Susan McDougal from prison; and the Supreme Court's refusal to give emergency consideration to Starr's attempts to force testimony of three Secret Service employees and presidential aide Bruce Lindsey.