By Peter Baker
President Clinton filed court papers yesterday accusing Paula Jones's legal team of being a "stalking horse" for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and asked a federal judge to punish the Jones lawyers for trying to "sabotage the fairness of these proceedings" through unproven salacious charges.
Clinton complained that the Jones team had violated a court order and unfairly tarnished him by including in its own most recent court submission an unsubstantiated, third-party allegation that he once raped a woman 20 years ago, an assertion that the woman herself denied in sworn testimony unsealed yesterday. The court should find the Jones attorneys in contempt and impose unspecified penalties, the president argued.
The "latest filing is pure harassment and should be sanctioned," said the brief signed by Clinton's attorney, Robert S. Bennett. Warnings have not been enough to stop reprehensible conduct, he contended. "The events of the past few days have demonstrated that greater sanctions are appropriate."
The new Clinton brief, sent to U.S. District Court in Little Rock where the Jones sexual harassment case is being heard, was an unusually angry response even in a case that has been filled with acrimony for years. Bennett and his team rushed to put together a 29-page filing just 48 hours after Jones's lawyers filed the papers including the rape allegation.
The Jones brief, filed Saturday, aired the story of a sexual assault relying entirely on the unsworn statement of a man named Phillip David Yoakum, who described himself as an acquaintance of the now-55-year-old woman, along with a copy of an unsigned letter he said he sent her in October 1992. In the letter, Yoakum recounted back to her a story he said the woman had told him of a "brutal rape" 14 years earlier. According to this account, Clinton, then Arkansas attorney general, met her at a state conference, invited her to a hotel room and forced her to have sex.
The Jones lawyers included no direct evidence that such an attack ever took place but asserted that the woman was afraid to talk to them out of fear of Clinton. They justified making the allegation public because the letter also asserted that she was keeping quiet because she had received an unspecified "pay off" and therefore was an example of the president's efforts to suppress evidence in the case. The filing named the woman. The Washington Post does not identify alleged rape victims without their permission.
"This pleading is part of [Jones's] ongoing plan to taint the jury pool and to use these civil proceedings as a stalking horse for the investigation being conducted by the Independent Counsel," Bennett wrote in yesterday's response.
Starr recently subpoenaed the Jones team seeking records involving the woman, and certain others interviewed in the Jones suit. But sources said Starr's office was not aware of the rape allegation at the time the subpoena was issued.
Representatives of both Jones and Starr have denied pursuing their civil and criminal cases in tandem. "We are not working in collaboration with the lawyers for Paula Jones," deputy independent counsel Jack Bennett, who is not related to the president's lawyer, said last night. "We have had no substantive communications with them at all."
T. Wesley Holmes, one of Jones's attorneys, said they have "good reason to believe" Yoakum's version of events, but declined to elaborate. "The focus doesn't need to be on shooting the messenger," he said. "The focus should be getting to the bottom of very serious allegations."
As part of their filing, the president's lawyers included an affidavit and an excerpt from a Jan. 9 deposition provided by the woman in response to a Jones subpoena -- but not included in the Saturday filing. In both documents, the woman denied Yoakum's version of events. She testified that she met Clinton alone once in the late 1970s but that he made no improper advances.
"Did you ever tell Mr. Yoakum that Mr. Clinton had sexually assaulted you in some way?" Jones attorney David M. Pyke asked her in the deposition.
"If that was ever said or mentioned and the comments were attributed to me, they were untrue," she answered.
In her affidavit, signed as "Jane Doe #5" a week earlier, she said the rumors involving her and Clinton circulated during the 1992 campaign and that reporters "hounded me and my family" despite her denials. "These allegations are untrue and I had hoped that they would no longer haunt me," she said.
The woman declined to comment when contacted by The Post last week and her attorney complained Saturday about being drawn into the case against her will. In yesterday's filing, Robert Bennett said the Jones team violated the terms of a March 10 conference call with U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright in which the lawyers agreed not to identify women in public filings if they wanted to remain private.
In a letter to Wright dated two days later, Jones lawyer Donovan Campbell Jr. said he believed he could not be forced to comply with that edict, but agreed to redact names "to protect any legitimate concerns for the privacy of any of these 'Jane Does.'"
In a related move, Jones's attorneys said yesterday they planned to file papers today asking the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule Wright's decision forbidding them from using evidence related to Monica S. Lewinsky in their own case.
Staff writer Susan Schmidt contributed to this report.
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