Starr investigation of Md. developer lacks evidence, legal sources say Democratic fund-raiser Landow allegedly tried to silence Clinton accuser

November 18, 1998|By Jonathan Weisman | Jonathan Weisman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Nathan Landow, a Maryland real estate developer and major Democratic Party fund-raiser who has been under investigation by Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr, may not be prosecuted because there is not enough evidence to make a case, legal sources say.

Landow, a former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, had been accused of trying to silence one-time White House volunteer Kathleen Willey, who claimed that President Clinton made an unwanted sexual approach to her in the White House, which Clinton denies.

But documents forwarded to Congress Friday by Starr don't adequately support the charge against Landow because Willey's testimony includes conflicting accounts and is too unreliable, say lawyers familiar with the material.

"You couldn't make a case of perjury against the president on the back of Kathleen Willey, and you couldn't make a case of obstruction of justice or witness tampering against Nathan Landow on the back of Kathleen Willey either," one lawyer said.

Republican as well as Democratic sources confirmed that documents appear to fall short of what would be needed to indict Landow.

Representatives from the independent counsel's office refused to comment on the matter, and Willey's attorney did not return phone calls.

For Landow, who is confident that the four boxloads of documents on the Willy matter will exonerate him, Starr's move may signal the end of months of legal trouble.

When Starr sent up his original impeachment report in September, the independent counsel purposely omitted accusations that President Clinton had made an uninvited sexual advance toward Willey near the Oval Office, saying the matter was still under investigation.

At the time, sources familiar with Starr's investigation said any future indictments would likely target peripheral figures in the White House scandal, such as Landow, who had been accused of pressuring Willey to remain silent. Landow had steadfastly denied the charge.

"It's had an extremely detrimental effect on my personal and business life," Landow said of the charges. "It's been a very trying and traumatic experience."

By forwarding the matter to the House to consider in its impeachment deliberations, Starr may be signaling there will be no indictments stemming from the Willey matter, some legal sources said.

"I've heard it said it is not earth-shaking," a Republican Judiciary Committee aide said of the Willey material.

Without a smoking gun, Landow may be in the clear.

"I have absolutely no reason to believe there's anything that's going to lead to an indictment of Nate Landow," said one legal source close to the case.

A source familiar with the Starr documents said Willey does indeed accuse Landow of "reaching out to her" about keeping the alleged sexual advance secret. But Willey apparently told several conflicting versions of the story. If the case boils down to Willey's word against Landow's, Starr may find it impossible to prosecute the case, given questions over Willey's credibility as a witness, sources said.

Landow is still searching for a silver lining to his legal trouble. The case has cost him a considerable sum in legal fees, he said, although he would not reveal how much. And it has damaged his reputation while distracting him from other pursuits.

"But it did have a positive side," he ventured. Starr "conducted a very thorough investigation of 40 years of my personal and business life, and he found no evidence of wrongdoing."

"In that sense," he said, "it has been vindicating."

Pub Date: 11/18/98

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