Extent of Jones' injury is still 'core' issue in Clinton lawsuit Broader allegations, new documents try to show pattern, harm

March 15, 1998|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Paula Corbin Jones went to work for the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission in March 1991, typing 24 words a minute and earning $4.93 an hour as a low-level clerical worker, and, at 24, hoping to turn the corner on an undistinguished job history that included at least one firing for frequent tardiness.

Her nearly two years at the Arkansas state agency -- during which she received raises, attended seminars to improve her grammar, took a six-week maternity leave and eventually left in a rage -- now lie at the very heart of her sexual misconduct lawsuit against President Clinton.

Even as lawyers for Jones try to establish a pattern of sexually predatory behavior on Clinton's part -- bringing into the lawsuit a parade of women who are alleged to have had sexual encounters with Clinton -- U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright has made clear what she says is the "core" issue of the case.

In order to prevail in the courts, Wright has ruled, the Jones team will have to prove that the former Arkansas worker, herself, suffered injury -- through job discrimination, a hostile work environment or the infliction of emotional distress -- for rebuffing an alleged sexual advance made by then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

Clinton, for his part, has repeatedly denied that he sexually harassed Jones and has said he has no recollection of ever meeting her.

Court documents, some of which were released by her lawyers Friday in a legal brief opposing dismissal of the case, provide a number of new details about Jones' two years of employment with the Arkansas state agency. They include raises and performance evaluations that, on paper, do not present a clear-cut picture of a woman demoted or discriminated against or otherwise injured.

But Jones, who filed her suit in 1994, has described horror and continued anguish from Clinton's alleged pass, an unpleasant work environment with "a lot of smoke in the air" and bosses who tried to stymie her advancement. Her lawyers maintain the discrimination against her was both blatant and subtle and not necessarily the kind recorded on paper.

What's more, her lawyers appear to be charging that Jones was not promoted, as were other women who allegedly succumbed to Governor and later President Clinton's requests for sexual favors.

The alleged and now familiar incident that is heading toward a May 27 trial in Little Rock, Ark. -- unless the case is dismissed or settled -- took place less than two months after Jones began work as a document examiner at the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission, earning $10,270 a year. Before entering state government, Jones had hopped from job to job, losing one, at Dillard's department store, for habitual lateness.

On May 8, 1991, Clinton delivered a speech and Jones was working at an AIDC-sponsored Annual Governor's Quality Conference at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock.

Jones and a longtime friend and co-worker, Pam Blackard, worked the registration desk, and early in the day engaged in banter with state trooper Danny Ferguson, a member of Clinton's security detail.

Later that day, Ferguson returned to the desk and told Jones that Clinton wanted to meet with her, saying, "We do this all the time." Jones said in her deposition that she thought it would be "exciting" to meet Clinton and perhaps could lead to new career opportunities.

According to Jones' deposition of last November, in which she added new details to her account that create a more menacing portrait of the alleged meeting, she was alone with Clinton in a hotel suite for 10 to 15 minutes, long enough to be "horrified" and "scared to death" by what took place.

Incident of 'sexual assault'

The legal brief filed by her lawyers Friday described the incident for the first time as "sexual assault."

Jones charged that the governor initially engaged in small talk, -- asking about her job and then telling her that Dave Harrington, the director of the AIDC, was his "good friend."

Soon after, Jones asserted under oath, Clinton "pulls me over to him to the windowsill and tries to kiss me and just didn't ask me or nothing. And I was just really shocked. And I pulled away. I said, 'No.' I said, 'What are you doing?' "

She said she tried to distract him by talking about Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, but the governor tried to grab Jones again, telling her, "I love the way your hair flows down your back," and running his hands up her long, dressy culottes to her "middle pelvic area."

In her deposition, she charged that Clinton kissed her on her neck and was trying to kiss her on the lips when she backed away, saying, "Stop it. You know, I'm not this kind of girl."

She ran over to the couch, she said, "and he come over there, pulled his pants down, sat down and asked me to perform oral sex."

She said she refused, saying, "I'm not that kind of girl." According to her deposition, Jones jumped up from the couch in horror and said, "I've got to be going. I've got to get back to my registration desk."

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