Statement by Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr at the Plea/Sentencing Hearing of Webster L. Hubbell


11:00 A.M.

The Court has now heard from two Assistant United States Attorneys on detail to our Office. Mr. Ray is from the Southern District of New York, and Mr. Barger is from the Eastern District of Virginia. Mr. Barger previously served in the Tax Division of the Department of Justice. Both have served in the high traditions of the Department, where I was privileged to serve on two separate occasions.

The first matter before this Court came to us from Federal agencies, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Resolution Trust Corporation. Those agencies, in the exercise of their regulatory duties, conducted investigations into particular aspects of matters that have now been in the public eye for over seven years. These two agencies determined that the matters should be criminally referred for possible prosecutions. The Department of Justice, for its part, determined that this matter was related to our Office’s core jurisdiction. We are therefore here, by virtue of the Independent Counsel statute, standing in the shoes of the Justice Department.

As to the tax matter, our Office examined the pattern and extent of payments received by Mr. Hubbell in the wake of his departure from the Department. Working collaboratively with the Internal Revenue Service, we determined that the matters merited consideration by a grand jury and conducted ourselves accordingly.

We have therefore been assisted, substantially and professionally, by three agencies of the Federal government, each of which was fully and collaboratively involved in our underlying assessment and review of the matters that became the subject of the two sets of criminal charges now before the Court for disposition.

In our judgment, the agreed-upon disposition is just and appropriate. It recognizes the seriousness of the underlying conduct. Yet, it takes into account matters not contemplated by the Sentencing Guidelines. In particular, the profound interests in finality — always a value in the criminal justice system — are at their zenith in the present, unusual context.

With the expiration of the Independent Counsel statute, it behooves us to seek to bring matters of our jurisdiction to a prompt and fair resolution. That is particularly so, in light of the uniqueness of our own experience. The events of recent months have found their way, and profoundly so, into the hearts and minds of prospective jurors. Avoiding a complex, lengthy trial not only preserves judicial resources, it vindicates the peculiarly strong public interest in finality when the strains on the courts and their impartial administration of justice has been so abundantly evident. And this reality has been authoritatively recognized by the Congress of the United States in allowing the statute to lapse and to restore the Attorney General’s traditional prerogatives.

In this unique context, the Defendant’s recognition of his own responsibility in connection with the proper and honest functioning of the three agencies of the Federal government goes far, in this unparalleled setting, to serve the ultimate public goal of the honest conduct of the Government’s work.

We have also recognized the uniqueness of the tax case setting. The unsettled nature of the Doe Immunity issue renders highly uncertain the ability of the United States to carry on a successful prosecution of the Defendant, given the current state of the law. Moreover, preliminary discussions with the Justice Department with respect to the Department’s possible handling of the entire tax matter, after the statute’s expiration, did not bear fruit, save with respect to the Doe Immunity issue. It thus behooves us all the more to earnestly seek a just resolution of the entirety of the matters under our charge, lest matters languish in uncertainty for many months to come. That, in our view, is not consistent with the public interest.

At the same time, the disposition allows the Government to continue the assessment of the practical implications of the Doe Immunity issue, as to which the Justice Department supported our Office’s suggestion for a rehearing en banc.

Finally, the responsibilities of an Independent Counsel uniquely require the gathering and assessment of information, a responsibility embodied in the various reporting requirements placed by Congress solely on Independent Counsels. The wisdom of this regime is, of course, not for us to question in a court of law. It exists. We must live with it. More specifically, it is particularly important in the work of an Independent Counsel to secure each witness’s information and version of events. This vital function has now been carried out.

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