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Ex-governor to `talk' in probe of first lady

Former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker pleaded guilty to a felony charge Friday and agreed to give Whitewater prosecutors information about a failed land deal on which Hillary Rodham Clinton worked in the 1980s, lawyers familiar with the matter said Friday.

Tucker, who resigned in 1996 after his conviction in a separate Whitewater case, has information useful to prosecutors who are investigating Hillary Clinton's work while at the Rose Law Firm on a real estate development south of Little Rock called Castle Grande, said the lawyers and other individuals familiar with the case.Tucker's information on Castle Grande also pertains to Webster Hubbell and his father-in-law, Little Rock businessman Seth Ward, said the individuals, speaking on condition of anonymity. Ward and Hillary Clinton's Whitewater partner, Jim McDougal, owned Castle Grande - which failed at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $4 million. The development was financed almost entirely with loans from McDougal's savings and loan. Hubbell was Hillary Clinton`s law partner at the time.

The first lady has said in sworn statements she recalls almost nothing about her work on the 1,050-acre Castle Grande tract.

In addition, prosecutors are interested in any references to then-Gov. Bill Clinton in Tucker's conversations more than a decade ago with convicted Whitewater figures McDougal and David Hale, said the sources. McDougal and Hale have been cooperating with investigators, and prosecutors would like to corroborate their accusations against the president through other witnesses such as Tucker. The Whitewater prosecutor's office initiated discussions with Tucker's lawyers last September about a possible guilty plea and cooperation, said the individuals familiar with the case.

Deputy Independent Counsel W. Hickman Ewing Jr. said the Whitewater team looked forward to Tucker's help.

"We do believe this will be a significant advancement toward the goals of this investigation," said Ewing. He would not say what information he hoped to get.

Tucker said he didn't know whether he had any information of value to the Whitewater investigation.

"I guess everyone would have their own interpretation of that. What may be important to some people may not be important to others," said Tucker, who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in connection with a sham bankruptcy proceeding in the 1980s in a cable television deal.

Hubbell is under investigation by Whitewater prosecutors regarding several hundred thousand dollars in payments he received from friends of the president in 1994 before Hubbell's guilty plea in the Whitewater scandal. Prosecutors are trying to determine whether the payments were inducements to discourage him from cooperating in the Whitewater probe.

Whitewater prosecutors agreed not to retry Tucker on his two felony convictions in a 1996 Whitewater case should they be overturned by an appeals court.