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State Trooper Rebuts Jones's Sex Allegations

By Sharon LaFraniere
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 11, 1994; Page A01

Arkansas state trooper Danny Ferguson yesterday disputed key allegations in Paula Corbin Jones's lawsuit against President Clinton, saying in court documents that Jones had praised Clinton as sexy, volunteered her phone number and offered to be his girlfriend.

In a six-page response to Jones's civil charges that Clinton pressured her to perform a sexual act, Ferguson confirmed Jones's assertion that he took her to then-Gov. Clinton's hotel room in May 1991. But he denied he told Jones that Clinton wanted to meet her or that he slipped her a piece of paper with Clinton's room number. He also denied Jones was upset when he saw her afterward.

While Jones has portrayed herself as a low-level state employee who naively agreed to meet the governor in hopes of a better job, Ferguson said she was at first interested in a relationship, then later, money. In a chance meeting early this year, he said, Jones asked him how much money he thought she could make by coming forward with her story.

Ferguson's response revealed nothing that Clinton might have said to him, only Ferguson's conversations with Jones. That left some holes in his account of what transpired at a state conference at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, Ark. While Ferguson denied Jones's claim that he approached her with an invitation from Clinton, for instance, he did not explain how he came to escort Jones to Clinton's suite.

The acknowledgment that he took Jones to Clinton's room "confirms a critical contention of Mrs. Jones," said her lawyer, Joseph Cammarata. Cammarata said other witnesses would refute Ferguson's damaging statements. He said he also can point out contradictions between Ferguson's account and the trooper's previous statements to reporters.

Robert S. Bennett, Clinton's attorney, said Ferguson's response mostly helped Clinton. "It obviously contradicts the essentials of her claim," he said in a statement.

When Jones first publicly alleged in February that Clinton had made an improper sexual advance, the White House flatly denied her account. "He was never alone in a hotel with her," White House communications director Mark Gearan said at the time. "He does not recall meeting her." But later Bennett, in an effort to ward off the lawsuit, offered Jones a statement from Clinton that said Clinton might have encountered her at the conference.

Jones's suit, filed in May, alleges that Clinton sexually harassed her, and charges both Clinton and Ferguson with "outrageous and malicious conduct" and statements. She alleges that Ferguson invited her to meet Clinton in his hotel suite, escorted her there, and waited outside. Inside the room, she alleges, Clinton lowered his trousers and asked her to perform oral sex while he sat on a couch.

Since Jones first made her charges in a Washington news conference in February, Ferguson has refused all public comment on the issue. His account is crucial, because he is one of only two known witnesses who purport to have direct knowledge of events involving Clinton and Jones that day in 1991. In February, Jones's co-worker and friend, Pam Blackard, told The Washington Post that she witnessed Ferguson approaching Jones and heard him whisper that Clinton wanted to see her. Blackard said that Jones was distraught when she returned from Clinton's hotel room, and told her that the governor had made an improper sexual advance.

A key issue is whether Ferguson's statement filed yesterday differs significantly from accounts he gave late last summer to reporters from the American Spectator magazine and the Los Angeles Times. Jones alleges that an article in the January 1994 issue of the Spectator provoked her to publicly charge Clinton. The article quoted an unnamed trooper, since identified as Ferguson, saying he escorted a woman named Paula to Clinton's hotel room at Clinton's request during the 1991 conference. The trooper was quoted as saying Paula later told him she was available to be Clinton's regular girlfriend.

The Los Angeles Times attributed this version to the trooper in a February article: Clinton spotted Jones at the registration desk and told Ferguson she had "that come-hither look." When Clinton said he wanted to meet with her privately, Ferguson secured a room and invited Jones there.

By contrast, Ferguson's filing yesterday gives the impression that Jones was the initiator, not Clinton, if only because he disclosed nothing of what Clinton might have said at any point. Ferguson said Jones first told him at the registration desk that she thought the governor was a "good looking" man with sexy hair, and asked him to relay those comments to Clinton.

Ferguson said he shared the elevator with Jones and pointed out Clinton's room, but that he "does not have personal knowledge of what took place in the hotel room or of the amount of time" Jones spent in the room. He said he next saw Jones 20 or 30 minutes later, back at the conference, where she asked him if Clinton had a girlfriend. When Ferguson said no, Jones offered to fill that role, according to Ferguson. Jones "did not not appear to be upset in any way," the response said.

Ferguson said he and Jones met again about a week or so after the conference, when Jones was delivering mail to the governor's office. He said Jones motioned for Ferguson to follow her into the hall, asking if Clinton had said anything about her. When Ferguson said no, Jones asked for a piece of paper and a pen and wrote down her phone number, the response said.

Jones told him to give the number to Clinton, with the proviso that she was living with her boyfriend and the governor should hang up if the boyfriend answered, Ferguson said.

Jones and the trooper agree they encountered each other by chance last Jan. 8 at a Little Rock steakhouse, after publication of the Spectator article mentioning "Paula." Ferguson said Jones asked him "how much money {he} thought she could make for herself by coming forward with her allegations."

Debra Ballantine, a friend of Jones's who was with her, recalled the conversation somewhat differently in a February interview with The Post. She said Ferguson told Jones, "If you decide to go public with this, the {National} Enquirer would pay you a million dollars." But he warned Jones that she would give up her privacy, Ballantine said.

Ferguson agreed in his filing that he advised Jones that media attention can bring intense pressures. After he and other troopers talked to reporters last summer about Clinton's alleged sexual encounters, Clinton called him to find out about the interviews and to discuss the possibility of federal jobs.

When the Times published an article about the calls from Clinton, the 41-year-old trooper heard from a former Clinton aide in person. At the aide's request, he issued an affidavit saying Clinton did not offer jobs in exchange for silence.

Because the statute of limitations has expired on federal or state sexual harassment charges, Jones's complaint alleges a conspiracy to deprive her of her civil rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. But her attorney, Cammarata, is pursuing it much like a sexual harassment case. He said he hopes to bring in other evidence about Clinton's character and his alleged abuse of power.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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