Lewinsky's First Lawyer Is Defended
By John Mintz
Lawyers for Francis D. Carter, the attorney first hired by Monica S. Lewinsky, said yesterday that the delay in formally filing her affidavit denying a sexual relationship with President Clinton was not related to efforts by Clinton's friend Vernon E. Jordan Jr. to find Lewinsky a job in New York.
Lewinsky gave her affidavit to Carter on Jan. 7, but it was not filed until Jan. 16. In the interim, she was offered a job with Revlon, following an interview arranged by Jordan, a member of the company's board of directors. Jordan also arranged Carter's legal representation of Lewinsky.
Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr has been pursuing the possibility that Lewinsky withheld formally filing the affidavit, in response to a subpoena she received in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, until a New York job came through, according to sources close to the investigation. That theory, the sources have said, grew out of the close juxtaposition of these events, and comments Lewinsky reportedly made about her desire to hold off filing the affidavit until she had the job offer in hand.
But sources close to Carter said yesterday that the delay in filing the affidavit was a technical formality in no way connected to Lewinsky's job hunt. They said that Carter notified Jones's attorneys about the contents of Lewinsky's affidavit immediately after she made her statement denying an affair with Clinton.
Carter is preparing to fight a subpoena directed at him by Starr's investigators, sources close to Carter said. On Jan. 22, Starr's office subpoenaed Carter's telephone message slips and other notes reflecting Carter's conversations with Jordan regarding Lewinsky. Carter plans to try to quash Starr's subpoena, asserting that his contacts with Jordan fall under the attorney-client privilege and thus cannot be disclosed, said the sources close to Carter.
"It's too bad Frank Carter, a great lawyer performing a legal obligation, is stuck in a raging controversy that has nothing to do with him and confuses his role," said his attorney, Charles J. Ogletree. "Frank Carter's not part of any enterprise" bent on lying or thwarting Starr's probe. "His involvement was very narrow."
Ogletree, a Harvard University law professor, refused to provide details about Carter's legal strategy. But other attorneys said Carter may feel compelled to try to stave off Starr's subpoena for information about Jordan, because the attorney-client privilege still holds in Carter's former legal representation of Lewinsky.
Legal experts say it's a hotly debated area of the law whether attorneys must reveal details of how a person became a client. Some subpoenaed lawyers resist disclosing more than the fact that they represent a client and the date the representation began, experts said.
It's not clear why Jordan, an attorney himself at the high-powered law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld decided to refer Lewinsky to Carter. Carter and Jordan are friendly but not intimate, associates said. However, they share a common mentor in H. Carl Moultrie, the longtime chief judge of D.C. Superior Court, friends said.
A prominent Washington lawyer, Carter, 51, has been an important figure in the controversy since it broke Jan. 21, with the question being asked in courthouse lunchrooms and judge's chambers: Could he have conspired with Lewinsky to write a false affidavit?
"I'd be stunned" to hear Carter deliberately helped Lewinsky prepare a false affidavit, said one federal judge in Washington, who was named to the bench by a Republican president. Justice Department officials agreed, with one calling Carter "a straight shooter" who would drop a client before lying for her.
"Frank Carter's word carries the highest esteem," said Mark Rochon, a criminal attorney who has known Carter for years. "I'd bet a lot he didn't do anything untoward in representing her."
Jones's attorneys issued a subpoena for Lewinsky on Dec. 17 and she received it Dec. 19, said sources close to the case. Lewinsky and Jordan called Carter that day and Jordan drove Lewinsky to Carter's downtown office on Dec. 22, the sources said.
At the same time, Lewinsky's search for a public relations job in New York was underway -- also with Jordan's help.
Carter's job was to quash the Jones attorneys' subpoena, or get them to withdraw it, and he wrote an affidavit in her name saying "I have never had a sexual relationship with the president."
Carter, not Lewinsky, controlled the affidavit once she swore it out on Jan. 7, and the nine-day delay filing it in federal court in Arkansas was due to the failure of Jones's lawyers to return his telephone calls asking them to withdraw their subpoena of Lewinsky, said sources close to Carter.
"Frank couldn't know" whether Lewinsky lied in the statement, a Carter attorney said. After she made the affidavit on Jan. 7, Carter started leaving messages for Jones's attorneys asking them to withdraw their subpoena, but they didn't respond, said sources close to Carter. Carter then faxed them the affidavit on Jan. 12, and only then did the Jones legal team reply, refusing to withdraw the subpoena, the sources said.
But Jones's lawyers dispute that account, saying the first Carter call about the contents of Lewinsky's affidavit came on Jan. 12. Carter said then that if the Jones attorneys didn't respond by Jan. 15, he would file a motion to quash their subpoena, and they didn't respond by that date, the Jones lawyers said.
In any case, Carter filed the affidavit in court on Jan. 16, along with a motion to quash the subpoena requiring her testimony on Jan. 23; he argued that Lewinsky shouldn't be required to testify in the Jones case since she had nothing relevant to say about President Clinton's sexual conduct.
Starr is investigating Lewinsky's reported assertion that she delayed filing the affidavit until she got a job. She received a formal job offer, around Jan. 9 or 10, by Revlon for a post that Jordan, a company director, helped to arrange with a phone call to Revlon chairman Ronald O. Perelman.
But Carter disputes any affidavit-for-job deal, saying he and not Lewinsky determined when her statement was filed, sources close to Carter said.
On Jan. 16, the same day that the affidavit was filed, Carter was dropped as Lewinsky's lawyer after Starr's investigators confronted her with her taped statements about the alleged affair. That night, Lewinsky hired family attorney William H. Ginsburg.
Carter's friends are alarmed by Carter's legal predicament, since his obligations to his former client limit what he can say to defend himself.
"Frank is a lawyer's lawyer of great stature," said criminal attorney Gary Kohlman, an old friend. "The irony is he's built this reputation slowly by staying out of the limelight, and now he's thrust into this glare of publicity, and he can't defend himself." Kohlman represents two witnesses who testified before the Starr grand jury.
Carter instructed a generation of young lawyers about legal ethics when he was director of the D.C. Public Defender Service from 1979 to 1985.
Kohlman worked for Carter then, and said he'd be floored if Carter joined in any Lewinsky plot. "He's very, very cautious," Kohlman said. "He's the last lawyer who would place a client in an ethical quandary."
Staff writers Toni Locy and Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.
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