Clinton's Attorney Denies Jones's
By Peter Baker
Claim of 'Distinguishing Characteristics'
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 8, 1997; Page A14
President Clinton's attorney yesterday denied that the president has the sort of "distinguishing characteristics" that Paula Corbin Jones described seeing on his body, even as another lawyer in the case prepared to turn the tables by investigating Jones's past sex life.
After much delay, Jones last week provided the president's legal team with an affidavit identifying the anatomical features that she has claimed would prove that then-Gov. Clinton propositioned her by dropping his trousers in an Arkansas hotel room in 1991. To the contrary, Clinton's lawyer said yesterday, the affidavit shows she does not know what she is talking about.
"At the appropriate time, I'm going to show that it's a sham," attorney Robert S. Bennett said in an interview. "I now see why they didn't want to give it to me. . . . It's baseless and easily refutable. . . . This is just a cynical and outrageous effort to embarrass the president."
The affidavit was not filed in court nor made public, and neither Bennett nor others in the case would publicly disclose its contents. But the emergence of the document from the Jones camp where it has been closely held for three years amply illustrated that as the nation's most famous sexual harassment lawsuit proceeds into the evidence-gathering phase, all sides are dealing with unseemly matters that could prove humiliating to the principal players.
Depositions begin Monday and will continue for months. Jones is to be interviewed under oath Nov. 12. In the interim, an attorney representing former Clinton bodyguard Danny Ferguson, who was sued by Jones for defamation, has issued nine subpoenas to her past employers, romantic acquaintances and others.
Bennett suggested in June that he would delve into Jones's past sex life and took an affidavit from a former employer who stated that Jones initiated a sexual relationship with him but ultimately had to be fired for being a bad worker. Bennett's approach generated such a storm of protest from women's groups that he retreated and forswore such a legal strategy.
But Arkansas attorney Bill Bristow said he is not bound by that pledge and added that he has a responsibility to represent Ferguson aggressively.
Although he would not discuss his strategy, Bristow said Jones's past is relevant. "Under Arkansas law, when one sues a defendant for defamation, then one puts into issue one's reputation," he said.
One of Jones's new attorneys, James A. Fisher, said it was an obvious attempt by Clinton's team to accomplish indirectly what it could not directly. "If anyone tells me that Mr. Bristow in Jonesboro, Ark., did all of the investigation to find all of these people, I wouldn't believe that," Fisher said. The tactic, he added, "is utterly outrageous [and] intolerable."
As for the "distinguishing characteristics" affidavit, seen as a central element of the sensational case, Fisher seemed to retreat from it when told of Bennett's denial.
"That never seemed to me to be an indispensable part of her case," he said. "I'm not conceding what he says is true." But Fisher left open the possibility that Jones could have been mistaken. "This is not something that she would have studied for a very long period of time," he said. "It would have been just a quick glance. . . . If it were an inaccurate perception, it would certainly be understandable given the stress of the situation."
Jones's spokeswoman, though, took a more combative approach, ridiculing Bennett's denial. "My question would be: How in the world do you know?" said Susan Carpenter McMillan.
Bennett shot back: "The difference between Mrs. McMillan and I is I know what I'm talking about and she doesn't."
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company
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