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Jones Lawyers Allege 'Perjury'

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 14, 1998; Page A07

Lawyers for Paula Jones have seized on independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's impeachment report in their effort to reinstate her dismissed lawsuit, arguing that President Clinton's testimony amounted to a "seamless web of perjury upon perjury" that justifies sending her case to trial.

The Jones team contended in briefs unsealed yesterday that a federal appeals court should overturn the dismissal of her lawsuit "if for no other" reason than the evidence of Clinton's alleged misconduct during the case. By falsely denying a sexual relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky during his January deposition, Clinton in effect undermined his defense, the Jones brief insisted.

"Mr. Clinton's odious acts of perjury, witness-tampering, and obstruction of justice have now been broadcast literally to the entire nation through the" Starr report, the Jones lawyers wrote in a Sept. 29 brief. "The nation awaits a response from the federal judicial system to this virulent attack on its integrity."

The president's lawyers have not responded directly to that brief because it was the final one allowed in the appeals process, but Clinton attorney Robert S. Bennett dismissed the significance of the Starr report in a series of filings in which the two sides are arguing over whether the referral to Congress and its appendices should be admitted to the record.

In a brief last Thursday, Bennett said the Lewinsky matter and the Starr report are irrelevant to the reasons why the Jones case was thrown out. U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled in April that the former Arkansas state clerk had not shown she had suffered severely enough to merit a sexual harassment claim even if Clinton did crudely solicit sex from her when he was governor in 1991, as she alleged.

Moreover, Bennett wrote, the Starr report should not be considered admissible evidence because it is a partisan "advocacy piece containing selective and one-sided portions of the information collected by the Office of the Independent Counsel, consisting primarily of double and triple-hearsay."

The legal jousting suggests the Starr report and its significance may get its first airing in a courtroom next Tuesday when lawyers for Clinton and Jones present oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals meeting in St. Paul, Minn.

Wright ruled in January that evidence concerning Lewinsky was not central to the Jones lawsuit and excluded it from the case to avoid hindering Starr's investigation, a decision the Jones lawyers also are appealing. But Wright apparently was peeved at Clinton's Aug. 17 admission that he provided misleading, if "legally accurate" statements during his Jan. 17 deposition and she has raised the prospect of citing him for contempt of court.

The Jones camp has prepared a motion asking her to hold the president in contempt, but has held off filing it while the two sides engage in a new round of settlement negotiations. Jones has asked for $1 million to drop her appeal but no longer is seeking the apology she long demanded as a condition for an out-of-court resolution. Clinton's side has countered with a $700,000 offer. While it has not formally rejected the offer, the Jones team has concluded that is not high enough and appears poised to make its own new proposal later this week.

If the two sides can reach an accord, next week's oral arguments would be called off and it would help free up Clinton to strike a separate deal with Congress to head off impeachment after the Nov. 3 election. Some advisers want him to make a blunter admission that he made false statements under oath, but are loath for him to do so as long as the Jones case hangs over his head.

In the absence of a deal, the briefs unsealed by the appeals court yesterday outlined the other arguments that will play out before the panel next week.

Jones's lawyers maintained Wright erred in not sending the case to a jury, arguing that the allegation that Clinton dropped his pants in front of their client and requested oral sex was extreme and outrageous enough to constitute sexual harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Bennett responded that Wright was correct, noting that Jones made no complaint at the time, took no time off work, sought no counseling and continued to work for the state while receiving raises.

© Copyright The Washington Post Company

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