By Peter Baker
The president's legal team argued in a brief filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock that Jones's lawyers engaged in a "smear campaign" intended to "taint the jury pool" last week when they made public hundreds of pages of sworn statements documenting accusations of womanizing by Clinton.
As part of the legal counterattack, Clinton's lawyers released more than 70 pages of previously sealed excerpts from depositions of Kathleen E. Willey, Gennifer Flowers, several former Clinton bodyguards and others in an effort to undercut their testimony and demonstrate that their allegations have no bearing on Jones's sexual harassment claim. In the case of Willey, for example, the newly released depositions showed that, while she alleged Clinton groped her in the White House, he did not offer her a job or threaten to penalize her in connection with seeking any sexual favors.
Jones's team contended that their filing last week was relevant to the lawsuit because it constituted evidence of a pattern of rewarding or punishing women in the workplace based on whether they succumbed to Clinton's alleged sexual advances.
"The 700-page filing by [Jones's] attorneys last week was little more than a web of deceit and distortions," Clinton's chief attorney, Robert S. Bennett, said yesterday. "Because they dumped so much of this garbage . . . we felt, in fairness to the president, that we had to move to strike it and to present substantial evidence . . . to rebut that salacious material."
The Clinton camp decided at the last minute, however, not to submit any evidence related to Jones's sex life, fearing the political backlash against a president who has enjoyed strong support from women's groups. The reversal was reminiscent of a similar shift last spring when Bennett first suggested he would examine Jones's sex life, only to disavow that plan days later after vigorous protests.
Bennett acknowledged at a news conference in Washington yesterday that he had planned to raise the issue to rebut Jones's new assertion that her 1991 encounter with Clinton left her with an antipathy toward sex. In last week's filing, Jones's lawyers produced an affidavit from a sexual disorders specialist who examined her Feb. 13 and concluded she suffered the equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder and "consequent sexual aversion," a specific claim she had never made before.
Bennett confirmed that he faxed a letter to U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright at 4:42 p.m. Thursday indicating that he would file under seal "sensitive information of a sexual nature about Paula Jones."
"At that point in time, it was my intention to address this . . . new claim of sexual aversion," he said at the news conference. "We were going to put in some materials that we thought were relevant -- sensitive materials -- to her new damage claim. It only seems fair to have done that."
He said he changed his mind between midnight and 1 a.m. yesterday, shortly after The Washington Post reported the letter in its early editions and on its web site. Jones's lawyers had provided a copy of the letter to The Post, which contacted Bennett and the White House for response Thursday evening.
"I was outraged at The Washington Post story, that they were writing about this letter before I had even written my pleadings, really," Bennett said yesterday. "And it just convinced me that I didn't need to get into that issue today. So if it was the purpose of Paula Jones's lawyers to not have that material submitted by leaking this to The Washington Post, I will confess that they contributed to that."
Still, he declined to rule out introducing evidence about Jones's sexual history if the trial goes forward May 27 as scheduled.
At the White House, officials insisted they did not know in advance that Bennett was planning to address Jones's sex life and press secretary Michael McCurry said flatly that Clinton did not approve of such a tactic.
Bennett declined to discuss his conversations with the president, but suggested he did not act without consultations. "There may be some free-lance photographers here," he said at the packed news conference in his downtown law office. "I am not a free-lance lawyer."
Jones's representatives said yesterday that Bennett's initial threat and the Clinton camp's efforts to undercut Willey's credibility proved the president does not subscribe to the spirit of the Violence Against Women Act, which he signed into law in 1994 and which generally bars the use of sexual history against victims of alleged sexual misconduct.
"This week's vicious campaign, orchestrated by the White House and its surrogates, to smear and discredit Kathleen Willey for telling her compelling story on '60 Minutes' suggests defendant Clinton's and his White House's true callous attitude toward all women," said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, which is funding Jones's legal battle.
While the affidavit from sexual disorders specialist Patrick J. Carnes was new, Whitehead said the "sexual aversion" claim "has always been part of this case" implicitly because Jones's lawsuit complained that Clinton inflicted emotional distress on her.
But Bennett scoffed at the eleventh-hour affidavit. "I would say it is a big joke," he said.
The new Clinton brief completed a round of filings that leave in Wright's hands whether the case will proceed to trial. Clinton asked the judge last month to throw out the case without sending it to a jury. Last week's Jones filing was the rebuttal to that motion and yesterday's submission was the president's response.
Clinton's main argument, which was reinforced yesterday, is that even if he did proposition Jones for sex in a Little Rock hotel suite on May 8, 1991, when he was governor of Arkansas and she was a state worker -- and he continues to adamantly deny he did -- Jones has not shown that she was harmed. The low-level clerk continued to receive raises and satisfactory job reviews, and left state government of her own volition about two years after the alleged incident.
Jones's lawyers have argued that they do not have to show direct retribution in the workplace, although they maintain she suffered from rude treatment from her supervisors and an undesired change in job duties after returning from maternity leave. They produced the sworn testimony about Clinton's involvement with other women in an effort to show a pattern of behavior and to argue that women who succumbed to his advances were rewarded with government employment.
All attempts to settle the case before trial have been fruitless and Bennett indicated he no longer saw hope for such a resolution. "I think no," he said when asked if the case would be settled. "I mean, I will never say never, but I think the chances of settlement are most unlikely."
The most anticipated new testimony he released yesterday came from Willey's Jan. 11 deposition, in which she accused Clinton of kissing and hugging her, feeling her breasts and placing her hand on his crotch in a private hallway adjoining the Oval Office when she went to see him about obtaining a paid White House job on Nov. 29, 1993. She repeated those claims before a nationally televised audience on Sunday.
The two-page portion of Willey's deposition disclosed yesterday largely contains Bennett's cross-examination of her, in which he appeared to be seeking to establish that she would not be a relevant witness in the Jones case.
In response to Bennett's questions, Willey often gave monosyllabic answers in which she said that she had initiated her meeting with the president that day, that Clinton had not undressed or asked her to undress, and that he had not threatened to punish her if she refused sexual activity with him -- or promised her "employment or favorable benefits" if she consented.
Clinton said in his own deposition in the Jones case that, after meeting with Willey, he instructed an aide to "see if we could do something for her." But he said he did not know how Willey, a volunteer at the time, got a part-time paid clerical job a few months later in the White House counsel's office.
Several new details emerged as well. Under questioning, Willey said she first met Clinton with her husband in 1989, during a fund-raiser for L. Douglas Wilder (D), who was running for governor of Virginia. She also said that she cried during her meeting with the president because she was distraught about a family financial crisis that would lead to her husband committing suicide later that same day.
During his news conference, Bennett tried to refute Willey's assertion in the "60 Minutes" interview Sunday that she had "felt pressured" by the president's attorney when he suggested to her that she find a criminal lawyer, which she took to be an insinuation that she might face a perjury charge.
Bennett said he had a "generic discussion" with her attorney, Daniel Gecker, about whether the real estate lawyer could handle the case. Bennett said he referred Gecker -- at Gecker's request -- to criminal defense lawyer Plato Cacheris, but never made such a suggestion in Willey's presence.
In yesterday's court filings, Clinton's lawyers also tried to undermine the credibility of several Arkansas state troopers who have testified that the then-governor used them to solicit women. Bennett included edited portions of the deposition of Raymond L. "Buddy" Young, a Clinton ally who once headed his Arkansas security detail before being appointed to a senior position at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In his deposition, Young said trooper Larry Patterson, who gave a sworn statement last November stating he had helped arrange sexual assignations for Clinton, used his proximity to the governor as a way to line up sexual encounters for himself.
"He hustled for himself on a regular day-in and day-out basis," Young said. "Larry Patterson's . . . objective in life was to sleep with as many women as he could." Patterson often imagined that any closed-door meeting between Clinton and a woman was sexual, Young added.
In a portion of his own deposition released last week by Jones's attorneys, Patterson said Young made veiled threats toward troopers who helped reporters researching Clinton's sex life. "If you know what's best for you and your family, keep your mouth shut," Patterson testified Young told him.
Also filed yesterday were more excerpts from depositions of two women who testified they had long-term affairs with Clinton -- Flowers and his high school friend, Dolly Kyle Browning.
Under pointed cross-examination, Flowers acknowledged she has made a total of about $500,000 by selling her story to Penthouse, the Star tabloid, "A Current Affair" and other news organizations. Clinton lawyer Mitchell S. Ettinger walked her through a detailed accounting of how she profited, including free trips to Spain and Germany.
During her Nov. 14 deposition, Flowers testified she had a 12-year sexual relationship with the president; Clinton testified he had a single sexual encounter with her in 1977.
In their filing, the president's attorneys included one page of cross-examination of Browning, in which she testified that she had never worked for Clinton, that he had never sexually harassed her, and that all of their "liaisons" were consensual. Although Clinton has denied an affair, the questioning appeared designed to demonstrate Browning's lack of relevance to the case even if it did occur.
Bennett filed statements from two other witnesses, too. Sam Jones, a lawyer who once represented Clinton in Arkansas, signed an affidavit denying ever telling a law school friend, Florida attorney John B. Thompson, of being assigned to investigate women whose names had been linked to Clinton and keep them quiet. And George Cook, a longtime Clinton supporter, testified that he was approached in early 1994 by Jones's first attorney, who was seeking $25,000 and a Hollywood job for Jones's husband in exchange for her not filing her suit.
Staff writers Amy Goldstein and Lorraine Adams contributed to this report.
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