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Magnate Gives Paula Jones $1 Million

Paula Jones Paula Jones gets a kiss from New York real estate tycoon Abe Hirshfeld after he presented her a check for $1 million during a news conference in Washington on Saturday. (AP Photo)

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  • By Michael A. Fletcher
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, November 1, 1998; Page A6

    New York real estate magnate Abe Hirschfeld yesterday reinserted himself into the fitful negotiations to settle Paula Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton by handing Jones a $1 million check that she could cash if the case is settled.

    Hirschfeld, who last week had withdrawn his bid to help settle the case because of his displeasure with Jones's advisers, said he renewed the offer and gave Jones the check because he now believes a deal is imminent. "The lawyers for Paula Jones, in my opinion, have 99 percent completed an agreement with the other side," he said. Members of Jones's legal team declined comment.

    Hirschfeld's assertion was contradicted by Clinton's chief lawyer, Robert S. Bennett. "This is all very bizarre and confusing and I don't know what impact, if any, this is going to have on any potential settlement," Bennett said. "I am very cautious about this. . . . We are not close to settlement at this time."

    Clinton's lawyers have been wary of Hirschfeld's unsolicited offer since the 78-year-old real estate developer came forward with it last month. The eccentric tycoon is facing tax-evasion charges, and Clinton's lawyers believe his $1 million offer coupled with the $700,000 that they have put on the table to settle the case could be seen as tacit admission of Jones's charge that Clinton crudely propositioned her in a Little Rock hotel suite in 1991. Clinton has repeatedly denied that allegation.

    Jones's suit is under appeal in the Eighth Circuit after having been thrown out by a federal judge in Little Rock, Ark.

    Last week, when Hirschfeld briefly withdrew his offer to help finance a settlement, he said that the proposal only seemed to create more demand for money among the growing number of lawyers and other advisers who have helped Jones with her lawsuit. He also complained that he had been rebuffed by the Rutherford Institute, the conservative foundation helping to finance Jones's case.

    But now that Hirschfeld has renewed his offer with the cooperation of Jones's lawyers, it should send a message that Jones's legal team is "ready, willing and able to negotiate in good faith," said Susan Carpenter-McMillan, a Jones adviser.

    Certainly, it appeared that Hirschfeld's concerns with the Jones team were behind him yesterday. He held Jones's arm as they walked into a downtown Washington news conference and later kissed her on each cheek, once before reaching into his wallet and handing her the $1 million check and once afterward.

    In comments to reporters, Hirschfeld repeated his contention that he is willing to pay Jones $1 million to help bring about a settlement because he wants President Clinton to "have a clear head" in dealing with the problems of the nation and the world.

    After receiving the check, Jones smiled broadly and thanked Hirschfeld. She declined to answer any questions.

    Hirschfeld's check was made out to Jones, as well as a list of lawyers and advisers who have helped her, including Rader, Campbell, Fisher & Pyke, the Texas law firm now representing Jones, her previous attorneys, Joseph Cammarata and Gilbert K. Davis, McMillan's husband, Bill, and John Whitehead, director of the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute.

    Harvard Hollemberg, Hirschfeld's lawyer, said the payment to Jones was contingent on her lawyers reaching a settlement. "There are several steps to go," he said.

    But Hirschfeld dismissed such concerns as mere "red tape" that can be easily cleared away. "Everything has been settled, [the deal] just has to be concluded," he asserted, adding that there is an agreement, not legally, but "in a business way."

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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