Woman again bids Clinton to settle sex harassment lawsuit

October 26, 1994|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The woman who is suing President Clinton, claiming he made unwanted sexual advances toward her in 1991, moved yesterday to put new pressure on him to settle the case out of court.

The woman, Paula Corbin Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, said at a sometimes tearful news conference here that "all I want is to reclaim my good name from Bill Clinton, the only person in the world who can do that."

Gilbert K. Davis, one of her attorneys, told reporters that a proposal to settle the case "is still on the table," even though two prior efforts to reach a settlement have failed. Ms. Jones, he added, seeks no money, only "a simple statement" from the president and an apology.

In May, Ms. Jones sued the president in federal court in Little Rock, seeking $700,000 in damages for allegedly exposing himself to her in a Little Rock hotel room in 1991. He was then Arkansas governor. She also sued an Arkansas state trooper, blaming him for a role in arranging the encounter. Mr. Clinton denies that the incident ever occurred.

The president's private lawyer, Robert S. Bennett, refused to reply to the news conference statements, saying he would "not dignify the performance of Ms. Jones and her attorneys" at "this media event."

The news conference was raucous at times and occasionally focused on Ms. Jones' motives for her lawsuit and for seeking to generate new publicity about what she has described as a lurid incident that left her embarrassed and afraid.

Reporters also questioned the timing of the news conference, late in this year's political campaign and shortly before Penthouse magazine is to publish what a spokeswoman said was "a major story" on Ms. Jones, perhaps accompanied by photos of her in a bathing suit and a negligee. No date for that issue has been set, the spokeswoman said.

Ms. Jones said the "personal photos" were taken privately by a former boyfriend, "and he's wanting to sell them, that's all."

Although Mr. Clinton's lawyers engaged in settlement talks with Ms. Jones' lawyers before her lawsuit was filed, those talks broke down. Ms. Jones said she made another settlement offer early this month.

Her lawsuit is on hold, awaiting a ruling by the federal judge on a claim by Mr. Clinton's lawyers that he has constitutional immunity to any such civil lawsuit, as long as he is in the White House. Those attorneys have asked that the case be delayed until he is out of office, a move supported officially by the Justice Department.

Last Friday, Ms. Jones' lawyers filed their formal challenge to the immunity plea, urging the judge to let the case proceed. They contend that Ms. Jones' interests in restoring her reputation would be damaged by a delay that could run for years.

The American Civil Liberties Union stepped in last week as a "friend of the court." In opposing the immunity plea, the ACLU told the judge that it did not believe that the president's lawyers had yet proved the need for delay.

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