Judge Dismisses Starr's Case Against Hubbell

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WASHINGTON: This time, Ken Starr squeezed his potential witness a little too hard. A federal judge Wednesday dismissed all tax evasion charges against Webster Hubbell on Wednesday, allowing the central Whitewater figure to slip out from under Starr's thumb and dealing a major blow not only to the independent counsel's case against the President but also to his reputation.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson last week called Starr's tactics "really scary" and today's decision bore that out opinion. The judge ruled that Starr went on "a quintessential fishing expedition," using a tax case as leverage to get information from Hubbell about possible Whitewater hush money, trampled on Hubbell's Fifth Amendment rights and violated a partial immunity deal Starr had made with him. Although Starr will appeal, TIME Washington bureau chief Michael Duffy says this stinging rebuke will follow Starr for a long time. "Starr already has reputation problems not only with the public but among his colleagues for dragging things out, for prosecuting everyone and everything. This decision is going to reinforce that impression."