Bennett disparages Jones' case President's lawyer attacks her evidence, but not her sex life

'Gossip, rumor, innuendo'

Attorney files rebuttal 106 pages long, argues for dismissal of suit

March 21, 1998|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,SUN NATIONAL STAFF Sun staff writers Susan Baer and Carl M. Cannon contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton's lawyers, escalating their public and courtroom battle with Paula Corbin Jones and her attorneys, accused them yesterday of manufacturing evidence to bolster her sexual misconduct case against the president.

Responding to the Jones side's outpouring of documents last week accusing Clinton of numerous sexual exploits and of orchestrating a "vast enterprise" to obstruct the case, Clinton's attorneys said most of those documents were intended to "taint" a trial by making it impossible to find an unbiased jury.

Jones' team, the president's lawyers charged, has sought "to put a veneer of credibility on all manner of gossip, rumor and innuendo concerning President Clinton." The Clinton side asked the judge overseeing the case to throw it out without a trial.

Robert S. Bennett, Clinton's main lawyer, was even more caustic at a news conference, accusing Jones' legal team of using "their last [court] filing to dump into the media every piece of garbage they could get before the court."

Calling those documents "a web of deceit and distortions," making "vicious and false attacks," Bennett said they showed that "the case brought by Paula Jones is groundless. It's without legal merit, and it should be dismissed."

Missing from the new 106-page filing was any attack on Jones' sex life -- an attack that, 24 hours earlier, Bennett had intended to make in the court papers. Such an attack was supposed to counter Jones' recent claim that she suffered "sexual aversion" as a result of a "sexual assault" by Clinton seven years ago.

Hinting that the political risks of offering such evidence had forced him to omit it, Bennett said plaintively at a news conference here: "President Clinton has less rights than any citizen in the United States of America in litigation."

The new court filing, however, did dispute that Jones was sexually harassed by Clinton or that she suffered emotional damage or any other personal injury, such as "sexual aversion," from an alleged encounter with Clinton in 1991. It noted that Jones said under oath in November that she was "not making any claims for damages related to her marriage."

Jones, Bennett said, is now relying on "subsequently manufactured testimony" from a sexual disorder expert that she suffers from "sexual aversion."

The lawsuit grows out of what Jones says was an encounter with Clinton in a Little Rock hotel room when he was governor of Arkansas and she was a state employee working at a hotel conference. When she went to a room where Clinton was waiting, Jones said, he made sexual remarks to her, then asked her to perform oral sex.

Clinton's attorneys did not make a point-by-point rebuttal to the 700 pages of materials put out last week by Jones' lawyers -- material that Clinton's team yesterday called "scurrilous" and "salacious." But they did urge the federal judge handling the case, Susan Webber Wright of Little Rock, to throw out most of that evidence.

Jones' "campaign to smear the president does not obviate the fact that [she] cannot sustain [her] claims" in the lawsuit, which seeks $525,000 in damages, Clinton's lawyers argued in their filing.

The Clinton filing included 61 pages of sworn testimony, intended mainly to refute documents in the Jones filing. For example, the filing included a brief excerpt of testimony by Kathleen Willey, a former White House volunteer who claims Clinton groped her near the Oval Office. In this testimony, Willey said she received no job benefits from that sexual advance -- contrary to what Jones' lawyers have contended.

Several of the newly released excerpts contained question-and-answer sessions in which Bennett elicited testimony on political or financial motives behind anti-Clinton evidence that Jones had gathered and put in her filing.

The lawsuit will go to trial in Little Rock on May 27, unless the judge grants Clinton's motion to dismiss the lawsuit or the two sides agree to settle it. Judge Wright could rule at any time to dismiss the case.

Asked yesterday about a possible settlement, Bennett told reporters, "I will never say never, but I think the chances of settlement are most unlikely, you know."

The embittered atmosphere between the two sides, which appears to make any deal unlikely, was evident again yesterday.

Reacting to the Clinton filing, John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, which is paying Jones' expenses, said that Clinton and his lawyers "do not truly uphold the standards and goals of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, signed into law by Clinton himself, to fully protect female victims of sexual misconduct by men."

If the case goes to trial, the president's attorneys argued in the papers, Wright should throw out all testimony by other women that Clinton made sexual advances to them, because that evidence was gathered for a claim that Jones cannot now support: that she was sexually harassed on the job by Clinton.

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