By Peter Baker
In papers filed at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, the Jones team sought the reversal of a lower court ruling that barred the introduction of the Lewinsky matter because it might interfere with independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's separate criminal investigation. The Lewinsky allegations are so central to their case against the president, the Jones lawyers said, that they are willing to wait longer for trial.
That marks a twist in the long-running lawsuit: For years, Jones pushed for a speedy trial in the face of Clinton's attempt to delay it until after he left office; now in his worst political crisis, the president insists he needs a prompt resolution to prove his innocence.
"It's not what we want and it's a bitter pill," Jones attorney David M. Pyke said of the proposal to postpone the trial, now scheduled to open May 27 in Little Rock. "But given a chance of going forward with half a loaf or waiting for a full loaf, we'll wait for the full loaf."
The Jones filing came as U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, apparently angry at recent conduct by the lawyers in the case, threatened to hold both sides in contempt if she concludes they abused the evidence-gathering process or violated her orders not to reveal the names of other women questioned about alleged sexual encounters with Clinton. Jones's attorneys yesterday asked her to fine the Clinton camp $1,000 for withholding evidence concerning former White House aide Kathleen E. Willey, a day after the president's lawyer sought unspecified sanctions against them for making public the name of a woman who was allegedly raped by Clinton in the 1970s.
Outside the legal arena, there were two new disclosures yesterday -- one embarrassing to the president, the other to his conservative opponents. A former Miss America said for the first time publicly that she had a one-night sexual liaison with Clinton while he was governor of Arkansas in 1983. Meanwhile, reports surfaced that a Republican fund-raiser paid thousands of dollars to two state troopers who alleged sexual indiscretions by Clinton.
The latest woman to come forward detailing a sexual encounter with Clinton was actress Elizabeth Ward Gracen, who was Miss Arkansas before winning the national crown in 1982 and now stars on the syndicated television series "Highlander." Gracen, 37, who denied it in 1992 after talking to Clinton's campaign, said she was telling her story now to rebut a claim filed recently in the Jones suit that Clinton made her have sex against her will.
"I had sex with Bill Clinton, but the important part to me is that I was never pressured," Gracen, who was married at the time, told the New York Daily News. "We had an intimate evening. Nothing was ever forced. It was completely consensual."
While Clinton has disputed other accounts of past affairs, he chose not to do so yesterday. "We're not going to be commenting on a 15-year-old story," said White House spokesman James Kennedy. Gracen, her lawyer and agent have not returned telephone messages in recent days.
Gracen was first linked to Clinton in a lawsuit filed in 1990 by a disgruntled state employee who claimed the then-governor had affairs with six women, including Gracen and Gennifer Flowers. The suit was dropped for lack of evidence, but became an issue during the 1992 presidential campaign. "It was thoroughly investigated and it's not true," Clinton said then, while his spokeswoman, Dee Dee Myers, insisted that "every single charge has been proven to be a lie."
Yet Gracen soon posed nude in Playboy and coyly declined to say whether she had slept with the candidate. With the critical New York primary just weeks away, the Clinton campaign contacted her and obtained permission to issue a denial in her name of a "romantic relationship." Shortly afterward, she told a news conference, "I did not have sex with Bill Clinton."
According to the Daily News, Gracen said this week that she was not pushed into making the 1992 statement. Gracen's name resurfaced last month when Jones's lawyers unsealed a deposition from a onetime friend, Judy Stokes, who testified that Gracen told her Clinton once "pressured" her to have sex in the backseat of a limousine.
"That never happened. It's completely false," said Gracen, who was never deposed in the Jones case because subpoena servers kept missing her as she traveled to far-flung locations. "I don't know why she said that. It baffles me."
On another front, knowledgeable sources confirmed yesterday that a wealthy Republican contributor paid $6,700 each in 1994 to two former Clinton bodyguards who went public with allegations that he used them to meet women.
Chicago investment banker Peter W. Smith, who has contributed $150,000 to the Republican Party and to causes connected to House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) since 1989, made the payments to state troopers Roger Perry and Larry Patterson a few months after the officers were quoted by the Los Angeles Times and the American Spectator magazine about Clinton's alleged womanizing, according to the sources.
Smith, who did not return messages yesterday, also paid $11,600 to two lawyers who helped get the troopers' story out -- $5,000 to Cliff Jackson, a longtime Clinton foe, and $6,600 to Lynn Davis, a former director of the Arkansas state police, said the sources.
The New York Observer broke the story of Smith's 1994 payments last week. The Chicago Sun-Times yesterday also quoted Smith saying he had paid another $50,000 to a variety of lawyers, public-relations consultants and a reporter as part of an anti-Clinton research project in 1992. Reporter David Brock confirmed yesterday that he received $5,000 from Smith in 1992 for expenses in researching a book he did not write; the next year, Smith tipped him to the troopers' story, leading him to write the American Spectator article that first mentioned "Paula" and led to the Jones suit.
The lawyers in that case have skirmished vigorously in recent days, with the latest volley being the Jones request to be allowed to use the Lewinsky material. Starr intervened in the case in January, asking Judge Wright to temporarily halt discovery related to Lewinsky while he conducted his probe.
The judge agreed and went a step further, deciding that the former intern could not be introduced as evidence at trial either, concluding that Lewinsky was "not essential to the core issues in this case."
In their filing yesterday, the Jones lawyers noted that Starr's investigation stemmed from indications that Clinton might have obstructed justice in their case by urging Lewinsky to lie under oath about a sexual relationship. Therefore, they argued, forbidding them from using that at trial "would pervert justice and reward the wrongdoer." Wright's ruling, they added, raises the prospect of forcing a second trial in the Jones case if the first one goes forward as scheduled but Starr later files criminal charges resulting from Clinton's actions.
They have an uphill fight, however. Rather than a formal appeal, under court rules they had to seek a writ of mandamus, which in legal parlance is known as an "extraordinary remedy" granted only rarely. Such writs are typically decided in a matter of days or weeks.
In Little Rock, Wright issued a stern warning to attorneys on both sides as the legal maneuverings have heated up. In a brief order, she wrote that she "cannot ignore the fact that the parties have filed a number of contentious pleadings and have perhaps engaged in activities in violation of court orders" and admonished that anyone found to have done so "will be subject to the full range of sanctions available to the court."
In particular, she repeated her order that women who have asked to remain private not be identified, a clear slap at the Jones team for revealing the name of "Jane Doe #5" in making an uncorroborated allegation that Clinton committed rape 20 years ago. Wright also warned against "discovery abuses." The Jones team has complained that Clinton improperly failed to hand over letters from Willey and yesterday asked Wright to impose a $1,000 fine and bar Clinton from using the correspondence at trial.
In Washington, two key White House aides with long ties to Clinton were brought back to testify before Starr's grand jury, and one of them lashed out at the independent counsel as she departed the courthouse.
"I think this whole process harasses people," said Marsha Scott, a longtime Clinton friend and chief of staff in the White House personnel office, who was making her third grand jury appearance in the last two weeks and her seventh since the Whitewater probe started. "This is a very expensive process. It is emotionally very draining. It's designed to be very intimidating and very frightening. It's also very isolating."
Scott said Starr's office has "preconceived notions" about what witnesses should say. "I and my other colleagues are trying to find the truth," she said. "I don't feel that necessarily is what they are trying to do."
Scott said she believed she was finished testifying for now, but yesterday's other witness apparently is not. Nancy Hernreich, director of Oval Office operations, made her fourth appearance in the Lewinsky probe; her attorneys said she will return.
Staff writers John Mintz, Bill Miller and Susan Schmidt contributed to this report.
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