As the sun begins to set on the independent counsel statute, the strange prosecution of Julie Hiatt Steele may help generations to come understand why it was abandoned.

Over four days last week, four of Kenneth Starr’s associate independent counsel presented 15 witnesses to a federal jury in Alexandria. Their target: a petite, 52-year-old, divorced mother of four who prosecutors argued had lied about precisely when a friend first told her that she had been groped by President Bill Clinton. The information was once thought to be of potential relevance in assessing the credibility of another witness, Kathleen Willey, who was once thought to be of potential relevance to Paula Jones’ lawsuit against Clinton.

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