By Lorraine Adams
Jones's lawyers said in a press release that they had responded with a counter-offer of $900,000 -- significantly less than the about $2 million Jones's team demanded in early January to keep the case from going to trial. They said Clinton's lawyers never answered the counter-offer, although the two sides "were less than $200,000 apart on resolving the case before trial."
Clinton attorney Mitchell S. Ettinger, in his own press release yesterday, called the Jones statement "erroneous and misleading in all material respects," but did not address its specifics. Instead, Ettinger said that he had made no offer to Jones's lawyers "on behalf of President Clinton, nor did I have authority to do so. Indeed, I specifically advised them that I had no such authority."
The Jones case is pending while a judge decides whether to grant Clinton's motion to dismiss. Trial is scheduled for May 27.
The account by Jones's Dallas-based team of recent settlement talks -- the first such discussions since Clinton became embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky controversy -- was issued to rebut a recent Time magazine report that her side was pushing for settlement. The statement said lead Jones counsel Donovan Campbell Jr. was approached on Jan. 30 by Ettinger, second-in-command to Clinton's lead counsel Robert S. Bennett.
One day before that, federal Judge Susan Webber Wright had ruled that any evidence concerning former White House intern Lewinsky would not be admissible in the Jones case. Jones's lawyers from the firm Rader, Campbell, Fisher and Pyke had hoped to use Lewinsky to establish a pattern of rewarding female employees who engage in sexual activity with jobs, promotions and other advantages.
Bennett had no comment yesterday. In his own brief press release, Ettinger said no settlement offer had been made by him "on behalf of President Clinton," but did not elaborate on whether the talks had, in fact, taken place.
The Jones team said in its statement that Ettinger was "prepared to make a public settlement offer of approximately $700,000, and maybe as high as $750,000, to be characterized as a payment of 'attorney fees.' " Jones's former lawyers, who left the case when a previous settlement was rejected by their client, have filed a lien against her for $800,000 in unpaid legal bills.
The Jones team statement said Ettinger described Clinton as "also ready to negotiate mutually acceptable 'apology' language if Mrs. Jones would give him a go-ahead signal."
Ettinger, the attorneys said, encouraged them to make a counter-offer and they did so on Feb. 6 -- offering to settle for $900,000 and a mutually agreeable apology.
Finding apology language acceptable to both sides, however, has been a major obstacle. Jones filed her suit because she felt that a story in the January 1994 issue of the American Spectator magazine made it look as if she had consented to sex with the president during an economic development conference at Little Rock's Excelsior Hotel on May 8, 1991.
In earlier settlement discussions, Clinton has refused to apologize for his conduct that day, although his attorneys have tentatively agreed to language that would indicate Jones did nothing wrong during the encounter.
Clinton has denied that he harassed Jones or made a pass at her during an encounter at the hotel.
Jones's attorneys said they believed that Ettinger's offer to discuss an apology was endorsed by Bennett. "Mr. Ettinger positively stated that Bob Bennett himself had approved this overture and these specific terms," the release stated.
But after the Jones team made its counter-offer, with apology language still to be developed, their statement said, Ettinger said he would talk with Bennett and respond by Feb. 9.
Instead, on Feb. 13, Bennett informed Campbell that Ettinger "did not have the authority to make the offer he did," according to the Jones team statement. Bennett, it said, also told them that Clinton would not settle for even $700,000 and he would not consider "any apology language."
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