McDougal Trial Delayed by Religious Holiday

The Superior Court trial of Whitewater figure Susan McDougal will resume Wednesday, after a brief hiatus due to the unavailability witnesses and the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana.

McDougal, who spent more than a year in jail rather than tell a grand jury about the 20-year-old Whitewater land deal involving the president and first lady, is charged in a separate case in Santa Monica with embezzling more than $150,000 from conductor Zubin Mehta and his wife, Nancy, between 1989 and 1992. At the time, and before the Whitewater case broke, McDougal was divorcing her late husband, James, and working for the Mehtas as a personal assistant and bookkeeper.

She also is charged with failing to file California state tax returns for those years.

The prosecution contends that McDougal, who had grown accustomed to wealth and then lost it, stole from the Mehtas to subsidize a lavish lifestyle. The defense argues that the expenditures were made with Nancy Mehta's knowledge and consent to drain the couple's accounts of cash so Zubin Mehta would not send the money to children he had had with women other than Nancy, his second wife.

The prosecution is presenting evidence concerning the Mehtas' household finances and bookkeeping system. Both Nancy Mehta and Susan McDougal are expected to testify later in the trial.

After she banged her fist on the defense table late Tuesday, McDougal, who has been chided almost daily by Judge Leslie Light, was warned she could be barred from the courtroom if her behavior continues. The judge wryly noted that citing McDougal for contempt of court probably would have little effect.

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