Jones ready to ask appeal Ark. records unsealed on eve of hearing to revive Clinton suit

Bitter legal jousting

Clinton reportedly rejects Jones team's $1 million proposal

October 20, 1998|By Lyle Denniston and Susan Baer | Lyle Denniston and Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Barring a last-minute deal to settle Paula Corbin Jones' sexual misconduct lawsuit against President Clinton, her lawyers will ask a federal appeals court today to revive her $525,000 damage claim and to let a jury decide it.

On the eve of that hearing, a source close to the case said, "the attorneys are still talking," as they have been for more than three weeks, about a possible settlement.

On Sunday, President Clinton reportedly rejected the latest overture from the Jones side: a demand that he pay nearly twice as much as her lawsuit seeks -- $1 million -- as a price for not having to publicly apologize to Jones for an alleged incident in 1991, an incident he says did not happen. As part of the deal, the Jones team separately demanded the $1 million that a New York real estate developer, Abe Hirschfeld, had volunteered to pay out of his own pocket to induce settlement.

In addition, as the hearing neared, 724 pages of previously secret filings in the Jones case were made public yesterday by the federal judge in Little Rock, Ark., who dismissed the suit last spring. Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled in April that Jones "has failed to demonstrate that she has a case worthy of submitting to a jury."

Not among the items that had been due to emerge yesterday was the full transcript of Clinton's deposition in January in which he denied having any kind of sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. That denial led to many of his more recent legal difficulties, including the impeachment report to Congress by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.

Wright, in releasing other documents, said without explanation that she no longer had the Clinton deposition in her files. Thus, she refused for now, as a matter of fairness, to release the full transcript of Jones' deposition, in which she was questioned aggressively by Clinton's attorneys.

Jockeying over evidence

The documents that were released yesterday mainly revealed the jockeying by lawyers over the evidence each side would be able to gather about the past sex lives of Clinton and Jones.

The filings show that the president initially refused to answer wide-ranging questions about whether he had ever had sexual relations with any women other than his wife or had used Arkansas state troopers to arrange sexual liaisons for him when he was governor.

"President Clinton objects to this request for admission in that it is intended solely to harass, embarrass and humiliate the president and the office he occupies," his lawyers wrote in objecting to the questions.

Wright ordered Clinton to answer. But she narrowed the question to a particular time frame and to women who were state or federal employees, "and those whose liaisons with Governor Clinton were procured, protected, concealed and/or facilitated by state troopers assigned to the governor."

Clinton answered with a single word: "None."

The documents show that Clinton's lawyers complained that they were being thwarted in trying to question former sexual partners of Jones, even though her lawyers were pursuing Clinton's past liaisons.

In one filing, Clinton's lawyers told the court that they had testimony from a man, named Michael King, who said he had sex with Jones in his parked car outside a bar on their first meeting. Several weeks later -- and just months before the alleged hotel room incident with Clinton that is the basis of Jones' lawsuit -- Jones initiated oral sex with King, Clinton's lawyers charge.

Clinton's lawyers argued in their filing that the episode would be relevant as evidence if Jones "should assert at any trial that she was an innocent minister's daughter" or was "emotionally traumatized" by a crude sexual advance.

The documents show the emotional intensity of the legal jousting in the months leading up to the dismissal. At one point, Jones' lawyers complained bitterly to Wright that Clinton's lawyers "have worked to almost entirely preclude Jones any opportunity" to question people under oath in time to draw up a witness list.

Lewinsky on witness list

When Jones' team did produce a witness list in December, the president and his lawyers learned that Lewinsky was being summoned to testify in the case about a sexual relationship with Clinton.

Jones' lawyers had learned about Lewinsky from Linda R. Tripp, a Pentagon colleague of Lewinsky's, who secretly recorded 29 tapes of telephone conversations in which Lewinsky described a sexual relationship with the president in the White House.

They are trying to use the evidence on those tapes, along with other contents of the Starr report to Congress, to bolster their claim that Clinton perjured himself in the case, concealed evidence and otherwise worked to sabotage Jones' lawsuit.

In a brief filed in the appeals court late last month, Jones' attorneys argued: "Mr. Clinton's odious acts of perjury, witness-tampering and obstruction of justice have now been broadcast literally to the entire nation through" Starr's report.

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