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GUILTY PLEAS AID PROBE OF WHITEWATER

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Whitewater counsel Robert Fiske Jr. says guilty pleas by two men his office prosecuted will allow him to move on with his wide-ranging investigation of Arkansas business dealings.

Plea bargains by Little Rock lawyers Charles Matthews and Eugene Fitzhugh eliminate the need for testimony from David Hale, who is cooperating with Whitewater investigators as part of an earlier plea agreement.Fiske feared Hale's testimony in their trial could jeopardize the Whitewater probe by tipping off people under investigation.

"These two individuals had nothing to do with Whitewater. This will allow us to devote ourselves fully to Whitewater," Fiske said Thursday.

Fiske said that next week, he plans to release the results of his investigations into last year's death of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster, the handling of documents in Foster's office, and contacts between White House officials and the Treasury Department concerning the investigation.

The cases of Hale, Matthews and Fitzhugh became part of the Whitewater probe after Hale claimed last year that then-Gov. Bill Clinton pressured him into making a loan to a Clinton business partner.

Fiske agreed to reduce felony charges against Matthews and Fitzhugh to misdemeanors in exchange for their guilty pleas Thursday.

They were accused of conspiring to defraud the federal Small Business Administration. They pleaded guilty to trying to influence a banker.