Jones reportedly nearly triples settlement price $2 million demand 'outrageous,' source close to Clinton says

January 12, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Paula Corbin Jones, who is suing President Clinton in a sexual harassment case, has nearly tripled her demand to about $2 million to settle the case without a trial, sources familiar with the matter said yesterday.

The new settlement amount, up from the original $700,000 damage figure contained in her 1994 lawsuit, is so "outrageous" as to make settlement of the case before trial even more remote, according to a source close to Clinton. It increases the likelihood that the case will go to trial.

Jones is also demanding a full apology from the president for his alleged sexual approach during her tenure as an Arkansas state employee in May 1991, while Clinton was governor. Clinton insists the incident never occurred.

Attorneys in the case declined to comment yesterday because of a gag order imposed by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright. First word of the new settlement offer was reported by CBS News.

Last August, Jones parted company with her previous Washington lawyers after rejecting their suggestion that she should settle the case out of court for $700,000, without an

apology from Clinton. Jones said at the time that her dispute "was not about money" and an apology was more important.

One legal expert not involved in the matter said Jones' new demand might purposely be "off the charts" to guarantee that the lawsuit goes to trial, as scheduled, on May 27 in Little Rock, Ark.

"It may also be a tactical move to show the White House and the public that Paula means business," this expert said.

Some of Clinton's advisers have said that even without an apology, any large settlement would be objectionable because it would leave the public with the impression that he was guilty.

Jones has said in court papers that a state trooper summoned her to Clinton's hotel suite during an Arkansas trade show where she was working. She alleges the governor exposed himself and asked her to perform a sex act, which she says she refused.

Donovan Campbell, the attorney who took control of Jones' lawsuit in September, heads a five-member team in a Dallas law firm that has specialized in conservative causes. Their legal expenses are being paid by the Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, Va., a nonprofit organization that has espoused issues supported by the religious right.

Campbell's entry into the case has led to a toughening of positions on both sides. Earlier this month, the Rutherford Institute, which recruited Campbell and is raising funds to pay his expenses, claimed in court papers that Clinton's lawyers are attacking its tax-exempt status in retaliation.

In addition, Campbell and Jones held a news conference in Long Beach, Calif., last week to disclose that the Treasury Department's inspector general has opened an inquiry to determine why the Internal Revenue Service began an audit of Jones' income tax returns only days after she rejected a %J potential settlement of the lawsuit last year.

The White House has denied any role in instigating such an audit.

Pub Date: 1/12/98

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