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Clinton Was 'All Over Me,' Willey Testifies

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  • Coverage of the Steele Trial

  • Steele's Feb. 1998 Affidavit

  • Key Player: Kathleen Willey

  • By Leef Smith and Patricia Davis
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Wednesday, May 5, 1999; Page A5

    Kathleen E. Willey, the woman who accused President Clinton of groping her in the White House in 1993, gave her first testimony in open court yesterday, telling a federal jury that Clinton cornered her in a private study, where he fondled and kissed her against her will.

    "He was very forceful," said Willey, 52, talking in a quiet voice. "His hands were all over me. . . . I couldn't believe what he was doing."

    Willey took the stand in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to dispute the claims of her former friend, Julie Hiatt Steele, who is standing trial on charges that she lied under oath about conversations the two women had about Willey's encounter with the president.

    Steele maintains that Willey didn't tell her about the alleged incident until 1997, four years after it happened. But Willey, a former White House volunteer from Richmond, testified yesterday that she went to Steele's Richmond area home hours the day it happened, Nov. 29, 1993, and told her about it.

    The office of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, which explored Willey's story as part of its investigation into the Monica S. Lewinsky matter, contends that Steele was trying to undermine Willey's account when she said that she first heard about the incident in 1997. Steele, 52, is the only person to be prosecuted in connection with the White House sex scandal and faces a maximum of 35 years in prison if convicted.

    Willey has given her side of the story in a national television interview and in grand jury testimony. The same day as the alleged White House encounter, Willey's husband committed suicide over his financial troubles. Yesterday, Willey indicated that she was emotionally distraught during that time and didn't even remember she had been to Steele's house until Steele reminded her later.

    Prosecutors sought to bolster Willey's credibility yesterday by calling as a witness another former White House volunteer, Ruthie Eisen, of Bethesda, who testified that Willey told her in a 1993 phone conversation that Clinton fondled and kissed her "on the lips" after she asked him to help her get a paying job at the White House.

    "She said the president had gotten aroused and he said that he had wanted to do it for a long time," said Eisen. "She was caught off guard."

    As the prosecution's case has unfolded this week, two former friends of Steele's have testified that Steele told them she knew about the alleged incident earlier than 1997. Steele originally told a Newsweek reporter that she did hear Willey's story in 1993 but then recanted and told a grand jury that Willey had asked her to lie. Prosecutors contend that she changed her story because she hoped to profit from it personally.

    But defense attorneys may have raised some doubt about that with one of the prosecution's own witnesses yesterday. Mitchell S. Ettinger, one of Clinton's attorneys in the civil suit filed by Paula Jones, testified that he had helped obtain the affidavit from Steele.

    Nancy Luque, one of Steele's attorneys, asked if Ettinger had any sense that her client wanted media attention. Just the opposite, he said. Steele was concerned about being "thrust into the limelight" even more than she already had been, he said.

    Courtland Jones, an FBI agent, testified that while on assignment to Starr's office, he and another agent interviewed Steele last year at her home in Richmond. According to Jones, Steele told him that Willey had asked her to lie before and that on two occasions Willey had told boyfriends, including a married police officer, that she was pregnant when she really wasn't.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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