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Leniency asked for Whitewater figure

Whitewater prosecutors have asked a federal judge in Arkansas to reduce the prison sentence of David Hale, a major prosecution witness who has accused President Clinton of helping to arrange an improper federally backed loan that was issued in the 1980s.

In court papers filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, Ark., prosecutors said that Hale had continued to provide "substantial assistance" that warranted a reduction in his sentence.

But they also asked that the judge postpone any decision because the investigation is continuing and because Hale will be an important witness in a trial set to begin in September.

Hale has contended that when Clinton was governor of Arkansas, he asked Hale to make an improper federally backed loan of $300,000 to Susan McDougal in 1986.

At the time, Hale was running an investment company sponsored by the Small Business Administration, which backed the loan.

Clinton has denied the accusation.

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