Despite a relentless three-year investigation of President Clinton’s personal life in Little Rock and Washington, lawyers for Paula Jones have been unable to find any credible new witnesses who are willing to swear under oath that they had a sexual relationship with him, witnesses and lawyers involved in the Jones case say.
Though private investigators for Jones have crisscrossed the country interviewing women rumored to have been involved with the president, at least five of the women have denied the rumors in pretrial depositions. Only two have described affairs with Clinton, and their accounts were known before the Jones lawsuit was filed in 1994.
Two other women - one in Washington, the other in Texas - have provided sworn depositions describing encounters that echo aspects of Jones’ claims.
The stronger of these two depositions is from Kathleen Willey, who says the president made an aggressive, unwanted pass at her one day at the White House. Willey is believed to be the strongest supporting witness for the Jones side, although in an interview a friend of hers raised some doubt about her account.
The other episode, said to have happened when Clinton was governor of Arkansas, was not physical. This woman, a Texas college professor, has told Jones’ lawyers, and the New York Times, that a state trooper handed her his business card and indicated that the governor wanted to meet her.
Interviews with some of the women approached by Jones’ lawyers, as well as interviews with the women’s own lawyers, associates and friends, offer a look at the behind-the-scenes battle that has been waged for the last three years between legal representatives of Jones and those of the president.
Jones’ investigators insist that the reason they have not confirmed more sexual encounters is that the president’s lawyers have prevented some women from talking.
“Many of these women are feeling squeezed, I can tell you that,” said Richard Lambert, one of the private investigators working for Jones.
But neither Lambert nor other investigators could offer evidence to support that contention.
In the past, Clinton’s supporters have used private detectives to combat accusations about his private life. But no evidence emerged from interviews showing that they had done so in dealing with Jones’ lawsuit.
Since last October, with a change in lawyers, the Jones team has become more aggressive in tracking down rumors and gossip of indiscretions by Clinton while governor and then president. At least 10 women have been questioned by the Jones team, and most of them have hired attorneys, including leading lawyers in Little Rock.
The failure to establish a pattern of harassment or philandering by Clinton points up the damage to Jones’ case from a federal judge’s ruling on Thursday that her lawyers cannot introduce evidence involving Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern who taped claims of a sexual relationship with the president.
The judge, Susan Webber Wright, said that Lewinsky’s involvement in the civil matter, while potentially relevant, could interfere with the criminal investigation by the Whitewater independent counsel, Kenneth Starr. Starr is investigating whether the president or his close friend Vernon Jordan Jr. tried to get Lewinsky to lie in an affidavit in the Jones case when asked about her relationship with the president.
As a result of Wright’s ruling, the lawyers for Jones are left with a weakened case as they prepare for trial, which is scheduled to begin in Little Rock this May. Their ability to obtain new testimony be limited because Friday was the final day for taking depositions of prospective trial witnesses.
The Arkansas troopers
Jones was a state employee working at a convention in a Little Rock hotel in 1991 when, her lawsuit charges, she was summoned to a room to meet with Gov. Clinton. She says Clinton made a crude sexual advance to her. He has denied that, although his lawyers have acknowledged that he may have met with her for an innocent conversation.
Jones’ lawyers say they have ample evidence to allow her accusations to stand on their own, and point out that appellate courts have found enough evidence to merit a trial.
But in an effort to bolster their case, they have tried to find other women who will tell of similar advances from Clinton, as well as women who can testify to sexual relationships with him.
Some of the accusations that the Jones lawyers deem most plausible were made in depositions by Roger Perry and Larry Patterson, two Arkansas state troopers who served on Clinton’s security detail. Perry and lawyers involved in the case say that in sworn depositions, the two troopers repeated their accounts of extramarital affairs by Clinton, accounts first published in late 1993 in the Los Angeles Times and The American Spectator magazine.
Perry and Patterson are likely to be witnesses at the trial, although they have some credibility problems. After they went public with their accusations in late 1993, it was disclosed that they had made false statements concerning an automobile accident in which they had been involved.
In any event, the troopers say they escorted Clinton to multiple rendezvous with several women, including Gennifer Flowers, a former nightclub singer. It was Flowers who imperiled Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign by declaring in January of that year that she had had a 12-year affair with him, which he denied at the time.
In a deposition in the Jones case in November, Flowers repeated that she had had an affair with Clinton and testified that he had assigned an Arkansas official to help her get a state job when she needed work, said her lawyer, Rugger Burke.
“She was very clear that the governor appointed somebody in his office to shepherd her through obtaining a state job,” Burke said.
On Jan. 17, in his deposition in the Jones case, Clinton acknowledged his affair with Flowers, say lawyers who have seen his testimony. It could not be learned whether he was asked then about helping Flowers get a state job.
Trails turn cold
The only other woman known to have acknowledged a sexual relationship with Clinton after he married is Dolly Kyle Browning, who grew up with him. She said in an interview this week that she provided a deposition to the Jones lawyers in late October and that in it, she testified that her sexual relationship with Clinton ended before he became president.
The Jones team has been unsuccessful in the questioning of other women.
In one case, a Little Rock woman acknowledged in her deposition that a state trooper escorted her into the governor’s residence in Little Rock early one morning in 1993, say lawyers familiar with her testimony. But, she said, the only purpose was to allow her to say goodbye to Clinton before he left for his presidential inauguration. She denied any “improper relationship” with him.
Samuel Perroni, the women’s lawyer, declined to comment.
Another accusation was that Clinton had a relationship with a woman he had appointed to a state post and that troopers had taken him to her home when her husband was away. The woman testified that Clinton had visited her home, a lawyer involved in the case said, but she denied having had sex with him.
The lawyer for a third woman said that the Jones lawyers who deposed her last November appeared to have been on a fishing expedition and that she had denied having any improper relationship with Clinton.
“She testified that there was never any relationship with Bill Clinton, that he never came on to her, that she never felt uncomfortable in his presence and that she knew of no one who had such a relationship with him,” said her lawyer, who spoke on the condition that neither he nor his client be identified.
There have been some public allegations that as president, Clinton had a sexual relationship with Sheila Lawrence, the widow of M. Larry Lawrence, who was the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland from 1994 until his death in 1996.
Lawrence provided a deposition in the Jones case Friday in Los Angeles. In a statement to the New York Times, she said that in her deposition, she “reiterated that I have never had a sexual or romantic relationship of any type with President Clinton.”
Vincent Krager, a former employee of the Lawrences, had been quoted by a friend as having said that Lawrence and the president had had an intimate relationship. But in a deposition that the Jones lawyers took from him in Florida on Friday, Krager said he had no knowledge of any romantic or sexual relationship between Lawrence and Clinton, according to his lawyer, Gerald Houlihan.
A central element of Jones’ case is that Arkansas trooper Danny Ferguson sought her out at the convention in 1991 and told her Clinton wanted to see her in the hotel room.
The lawyers for Jones questioned a college English professor in Texas who described a similar approach by another trooper in the mid-1980s. The professor, Joyce Miller, first described her encounter for a 1994 American Spectator article.
In an interview this week, Miller said she had provided a deposition in the Jones case recounting the episode. She said the incident occurred when she was attending a large party with her sister in Little Rock. A trooper approached her, she said, and told her that the governor found her attractive.
Miller then indicated she was not interested, and nothing further happened, she said. She did, however, keep the trooper’s business card, and gave it to the lawyers for Jones.
The strongest witness to bolster the Jones case is Kathleen Willey, who once worked as an unpaid volunteer at the White House. In a deposition, says a lawyer close to the case, Willey testified that she asked Clinton for a paid position in November 1993 and that he led her to his private study, groped her and placed her hand on his genitals.
Last April, Willey met in her lawyer’s office with Michael Isikoff, a reporter for Newsweek, and described the incident to him in tearful tones, according to one person present at the meeting. She then sent Isikoff to a friend, Julie Steele, for corroboration.
In an interview on Thursday, Steele said she had backed her friend’s story, telling Isikoff that Willey came to her home the evening of the encounter and described it to her. But, Steele said, she told that story to Isikoff in response to pressure from Willey. She said Willey telephoned her while the reporter was on his way to her home and told her what to say.
“She did not come to my house that night,” Steele said. “I didn’t know a thing about this. I never heard that she had been groped by the president until the guy from Newsweek was on his way to my house.”
Graphic: Who’s Who