Jones' case adds new allegations Clinton accused of trying to suppress evidence in suit

Mirrors Starr investigation

Clinton lawyer calls latest accusations 'a pack of lies'

March 14, 1998|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON SUN STAFF WRITERS PAUL WEST, CARL M. CANNON AND SUSAN BAER CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — WASHINGTON -- In an aggressive new legal assault on President Clinton, lawyers for Paula Corbin Jones accused Clinton and his agents yesterday of repeatedly breaking the law in an effort to scuttle Jones' sexual misconduct lawsuit against him.

The most serious allegations -- in a 700-page filing to a federal judge overseeing the Jones case -- parallel those being investigated by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and a grand jury: "perjury, witness tampering and obstruction of justice," all intended to "corrupt" the evidence Jones has sought for her case.

Jones is seeking $525,000 in damages, based mainly on her accusation that Clinton made a sexual advance toward her in an Arkansas hotel room seven years ago.

Yesterday, her attorneys contended that there was "good reason to believe that Mr. Clinton, and those acting on his behalf, have engaged in a vast enterprise to suppress evidence in this case and otherwise corrupt these proceedings."

Jones' case is a civil one, and criminal allegations play no direct role in it. But her lawyers cited court rulings and legal authorities in arguing that efforts to fabricate evidence or obstruct justice in a civil case indicates that one side's case -- in this instance, Clinton's -- is weak and unfounded "and not to be won by fair means."

Quoting a venerated judge, Learned Hand, her lawyers said that evidence tampering leads to "the inevitable conclusion" that the person doing so "has something to conceal and is conscious of


This evidence alone, the attorneys argued, should persuade the judge handling the Jones case to allow it to go to trial as scheduled May 27 instead of dismissing it, as the president has requested.

Clinton's lawyer in the case, Robert S. Bennett, called the charges "a pack of lies" and said Jones has no case.

In their court filing, Jones' lawyers, besides claiming that the president's team has sought to undermine her lawsuit, contended that her side now has "compelling evidence" to prove at trial all her charges of sexual assault and harassment.

Those charges grow out of the alleged sexual encounter in 1991, when Clinton was Arkansas governor and she was a state employee earning $4.93 an hour. Because she rebuffed Clinton's advances, Jones contends, she was discouraged from seeking promotions and pay raises, given less interesting work, and was isolated and mistreated by colleagues.

Clinton and his lawyers have repeatedly disputed all her allegations. Yesterday, the president and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who left for a weekend at Camp David just as the Jones filing was being made public, had no comment on it.

Jones' lawyers charged that "the totality of Mr. Clinton's conduct against [Jones] is atrocious and utterly intolerable, and by its very nature something that no reasonable individual woman should be expected to endure."

Seven years after that incident, her lawyers said, Jones still bears "emotional scars" that "run deep," with symptoms very much like "post-traumatic stress disorder" -- "extreme anxiety, intrusive thoughts and memories, and consequent sexual aversion."

She cannot watch the president on television, talk about the incident, "or even think about it without experiencing emotional trauma and stress," the brief said.

The 91-page filing, accompanied by some 600 pages of background materials, constituted the Jones team's formal response to the president's plea to decide the case in his favor now by dismissing it before the scheduled trial May 27.

Among the items made public for the first time were scores of pages of secret sworn testimony by Clinton.

Testifying under oath Jan. 17, the president answered questions for five hours from Jones' lawyers and his own. One of his most fervent declarations of innocence was this assertion:

"In my lifetime I've never sexually harassed a woman, and I've never done what she [Jones] accused me of doing. I didn't do it then because I never have, and I wouldn't."

Judge Susan Webber Wright of Little Rock is expected to rule soon, perhaps later this month, on Clinton's plea for dismissal. The judge will rule after Clinton formally answers yesterday's filing; his reply is due Friday.

If the judge rejects Clinton's plea, Jones' advisers have said they expect Clinton's side to show more interest in settling the case out of court.

But they have said Jones would insist on an apology, and Clinton's attorney Bennett has said that Clinton would not apologize for something he never did.

Yesterday, Bennett told reporters he had not read all 700 pages, but said that "the very serious legal deficiencies fatal to Paula Jones' case remain."

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