Judge asked to hold Jones legal team in contempt Bennett files motion citing flouted court orders

March 31, 1998|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton's lawyers, denying new allegations that they have tried to sabotage Paula Corbin Jones' sexual misconduct lawsuit, asked a federal judge yesterday to hold Jones' attorneys in contempt.

Clinton's legal team asserted that Jones' team has repeatedly flouted court orders on how the case is to unfold and engaged in a sustained campaign "to bias the jury pool" for the coming trial.

Earlier, the Clinton lawyers asked the judge in the case to throw out all the "scurrilous material" Jones' team has offered as evidence, beyond her evidence of a specific sexual encounter she said Clinton forced on her in a Little Rock hotel room in 1991, when he was governor of Arkansas. The president has denied Jones' allegation.

Yesterday, Clinton's attorneys said that exclusion of evidence about Clinton and other women would not be enough of a sanction against the Jones lawyers.

"Transgressions of the court's orders clearly warrant a finding of contempt," they argued. In addition, the judge should require Jones' team to file all future court documents under seal, so the judge could review them before they became public, Clinton's attorneys said.

This filing method, they argued, is necessary "to prevent further prejudice to President Clinton."

The new Clinton filing was a response to an unusual filing the Jones team made Saturday, asking the judge to impose sanctions on Clinton's attorneys for trying to "obstruct" Jones' case. That filing also included a searing new accusation: that Clinton, while Arkansas attorney general in the late 1970s, raped a woman.

Robert S. Bennett, the president's chief lawyer in the Jones case, lambasted Jones' side for the rape allegation, calling it "an outrageous assertion" and offering both a deposition and an affidavit by the woman -- identified in Bennett's papers as "Jane Doe #5" -- in which she denied that there had been any rape.

While Bennett did not name the woman, Jones' attorneys did in their filings. That identification, Bennett said, violated a promise made to the judge not to disclose women's names when they preferred privacy.

For their part, Jones' attorneys accused the Clinton team of refusing to turn over documents they had sought about Kathleen Willey, a one-time White House aide who has accused the president of an unwanted sexual advance in the White House.

The White House itself has released a number of documents about letters and telephone calls by Willey to the White House, and Jones' lawyers contended those should have been turned over.

Bennett specifically denied any refusal to turn over Willey documents sought by subpoena. Other documents that Jones' side now says it wants were White House documents, not Clinton's own personal records, which Bennett said Jones' side had received.

Because he has been sued personally and not as president, Clinton has no duty to turn over materials from the White House files, Bennett argued. No White House documents have been subpoenaed, he added.

The judge is expected to rule shortly on Clinton's last maneuver to stop the case before it goes to trial May 27. But the president has asked the judge to rule his way now, saying Jones has not proved her case of sexual misconduct.

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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