President Clinton’s lawyers, striking back at Paula Jones, asked a federal judge Friday to dismiss her sexual harassment lawsuit without a trial, saying there is “not an iota of evidence” that Jones was harassed or faced discrimination.
The lawyers labeled Jones’s recent claims of psychological damage as “a big joke,” and said that several of her key witnesses, including state troopers on Clinton’s security detail in Arkansas, were unreliable - motivated by politics and money.
They also argued that former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey’s allegations against Clinton of sexual misconduct are irrelevant to the Jones case and should not be admissible.
In a lengthy court filing in federal court in Little Rock, Ark., Clinton attorney Robert Bennett and his associates avoided any mention of Jones’s sexual history, despite their prior warning that they may delve into her background in an attempt to prove she was not psychologically harmed by Clinton.
Rather, the 200-page filing consisted mostly of legal arguments. But at a news conference that heralded the document release, Bennett was far more pointed in his criticism of Jones, her case, and the lawyers who have handled it.
“This is not a sexual harassment case,” said Bennett. “This is not an employment discrimination case, in the sense that there is no evidence to support it. That’s what she’s claiming, she’s been harassed, she’s been discriminated against, that she was in a hostile work environment. There is not an iota of evidence, as we point out very carefuly to the court, to support those claims.”
Bennett accused Jones’s lawyers of using a massive court filing last week to “dump into the media every piece of garbage they could get before the court.” Bennett said simply, “We will not respond in kind.”
In an angry response, John Whitehead, one of Jones’s lawyers and a key financial backer, accused Clinton of mistreating women, both in sexual misconduct and attempts to discredit those who dare accuse him.
“Indeed, this week’s vicious campaign, orchestrated by the White House and its surrogates, to smear and discredit Kathleen Willey for telling her compelling story on ‘60 Minutes’ suggests defendant Clinton’s and his White House’s true callous attitude toward all women,” Whitehead said outside the federal courthouse here.
But several legal experts said Bennett made a compelling argument and predicted that U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright could throw out the lawsuit.
“What Bennett is trying to do is to focus the court on the primary issue, which is that Paula Jones has failed to show a tangible job detriment and that pervades all of her claims,” said Jane Aiken, a Washington University law professor who is an expert on evidence in sexual harassment cases.
“She still hasn’t met the legal requirement of showing sexual harassment.”
But Bennett said he decided at the last moment, in the predawn hours on Friday, not to file with the judge any evidence that would directly challenge Jones’ claims about her suffering, including evidence about her sexual activity.
Referring to the almost certain political outcry by feminists and others if Clinton attacked Jones’ sexual history, Bennett complained that “President Clinton has less rights than any citizen in the United States of America in litigation.”
Where men once routinely challenged the sexual history of women who made accusations against them, women in recent years have been increasingly shielded from such questions unless they are proved to be directly relevant to the case. While Clinton probably could make a legal argument to examine Jones’ sexual history since the 1991 incident, he still could face political criticism as a man trying to “blame the victim.”
Clinton admits he may have met with her in a hotel room, but denies sexually propositioning her.
Bennett’s legal arguments were an effort to buttress his request to Judge Wright to dismiss Jones’ lawsuit before it goes to trial as scheduled on May 27.
On March 13, Jones’ lawyers made their argument to go to trial. They insisted they had enough evidence that Clinton made a crude sexual advance to Jones in a Little Rock Hotel room in May 1991, that he had numerous other affairs or sexual encounters and that he had engaged in a widespread attempt to cover up his sexual activity.
At the same time, Jones’ attorneys for the first time charged that Jones suffered from sexual aversion as a result, and included a statement from an Arizona counselor supporting that.
“It is a big joke,” Bennett said Friday at a press conference in his office near the White House. “This alleged incident happened in 1991, and until two, three weeks ago, no such claim was in the case.”
Bennett said Jones herself never mentioned any suffering when interviewed by lawyers for both sides.
“You will see that the precise questions were asked of Ms. Jones about her damages,” Bennett said. “No interference with marriage, no medical bills, never even an aspirin. And now here we are, days before summary judgment, and we have a new damage.”
Bennett said, “All of a sudden, to fill a gap in their pleadings, when we show a massive deficiency in their case - the lack of damage - there pops up a PhD in education who gives them an affidavit that there is now a damage claim of sexual aversion.”
Bennett also tried to use Jones’ testimony against her own case:
While she charges that Clinton “commanded” her to come to the hotel room, Bennett said, she also said in another part of her testimony that she went voluntarily to the room;
While she charges that Clinton “commanded” her to perform oral sex, she also said in another part of her testimony that Clinton told her he did not want her to do anything against her will;
And while she charges that Clinton threatened her, she also said that he never told her she would face punishment at work if she didn’t submit.
“One need look no further than the first page to see that (Jones’ attorneys’) rhetoric is not supported even by (Jones’) own testimony,” Bennett wrote.
Bennett also released excerpts of testimony from several witnesses he thought would either impeach the motives of witnesses against Clinton or add details that might make Clinton look better.
Two of the new releases were aimed at former Arkansas State Trooper Larry Patterson, who testified he escorted a woman three times in the early morning to the Arkansas governor’s mansion just before Clinton moved to Washington.
One quotes Raymond “Buddy” Young, the former head of Clinton’s state security detail, questioning Patterson’s truthfulness.
“A lot of it is Larry Patterson’s imagination,” Young said. “If Bill Clinton had a meeting with a woman behind closed doors, Larry assumed it was for the purpose of sex, because that’s what it would have been had he been there.”
Another appears to question Patterson’s motives, quoting Patterson talking about his numerous trips around the country to tell his stories about Clinton to conservative talk radio audiences or other groups for fees of $500 or $1,000.
In another charge, Bennett quotes from an anti-Clinton book, charging that Jones’ husband, Steve Jones, is using the lawsuit to subpoena people and “put a veneer of credibility on all manner of gossip” about Clinton.