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New material may aid Starr's probe

By Larry MargasakAssociated Press Published: March 15, 1998 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON _ Legal experts reviewing new information from Paula Jones' lawyers say the material may not provide much ammunition for her civil suit against President Clinton, but could eventually prove more relevant to Kenneth Starr's criminal investigation.

The Jones lawyers on Friday detailed at great length alleged attempts to cover up Clinton's sexual past, including job offers and hush money _ all of which could be of interest to independent counsel Starr in his investigation.

And sworn testimony by other women claiming sexual encounters with Clinton could be part of a report submitted by Starr if he decides to send Clinton material to the House of Representatives.

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At the same time, these experts said the volumes of documents did not particularly strengthen Jones' own sexual harassment lawsuit.

"The Jones papers seemed more relevant to the Lewinsky allegations than to the defense of their own case," said Michael Zeldin, a former career federal prosecutor. "I was surprised at the paucity of evidence to support her allegations. They haven't come up with anybody but the usual suspects. The one bad thing for Clinton was the allegations of a pattern of obstruction."

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The Jones attorneys included in their filings allegations that Clinton, White House aide Bruce Lindsey and a former Arkansas trooper tried to keep individuals quiet in Jones' case. In some cases, jobs were offered, in others hush money, according to depositions in the case.

Starr is investigating whether the president had an affair with former intern Monica Lewinsky and sought to cover it up.

Zeldin said Jones' own case has problems because there was only a single act of unwanted sexual advancement and that's "one word against another." None of the other women cited in the documents fit Mrs. Jones' claim: that she was denied proper raises and promotions for rejecting Clinton.

Zeldin said the case of Kathleen Willey is the strongest allegation of a parallel case to Jones, because Willey testified that Clinton made an unwanted sexual advance when the two of them were alone,.

But there are differences, too. Willey, who was a volunteer, went to see Clinton about a paid job. Jones says Clinton had a trooper summon her to his hotel room where he asked her to perform a sex act.

"There's a parallel but ... the chances for misinterpretation are greater in the Willey case," said former Justice Department prosecutor Barbara Nicastro. She said Willey approached Clinton while "overly distraught" about her family finances, "and behavior that could be questionable might have been mistaken. You have a hysterical woman, you may kiss her on cheek and say everything's going to be cool."

Clinton said in his deposition that he may have kissed Mrs. Willey on the forehead to console her.

Zeldin, commenting on the strength of the Jones case, said, "It almost seems like they're saying 'We don't have any evidence of our claim, just hints of it,"' said Zeldin. "They're saying this guy (Clinton) threatened everyone in the case and that's why we don't have more witnesses."

In their legal papers, the Jones lawyers contended that Lindsey contacted Linda Tripp, after she observed Kathleen Willey emerge disheveled from her meeting with Clinton. He tried to convince her "to change her account and, if necessary, her testimony ... ." the Jones lawyers said.

The Jones lawyers submitted depositions in which:

Witnesses testified that at Clinton's direction, Buddy Young, the former supervisor of Clinton's security detail, threatened to "destroy" three troopers if they spoke out about his sexual liaisons.

Clinton lawyer M. Samuel Jones III was quoted by another lawyer as saying Jones' job in 1992 was to hunt down women who were claiming that they had affairs with Clinton and pay them hush money to "make them go away." Jones labeled the account as "totally untrue."

Dolly Kyle Browning testified she had a long sexual affair with Clinton, and was contacted by Lindsey, threatening to "destroy her" if she told the truth. Clinton has denied an affair with her.

As the Jones and Lewinsky cases churn on, House Republicans are signaling their interest in a broad inquiry if Starr turns over information for an impeachment inquiry. Such an inquiry could reach far beyond the Lewinsky matter.

David Yellen, a law professor at Hofstra University, said that if Starr makes a report to the House, "He could say, 'We don't have a smoking gun that anyone encouraged Lewinsky to lie, but look, he did just that kind of thing with other women.' If they were going to go forward with impeachment, you can bet those allegations would be explored by the House Judiciary Committee."

Joseph Aronica, a former federal prosecutor, said that it's possible the cover-up material, if true, could benefit the Jones lawyers.

"They're attempting to corroborate (Jones' story), so they're showing a pattern of activity with others," he said. "Then, if they can show there was a cover-up to be quiet about it, that's another step to show it's close to an admission (by the Clinton camp). Why else would anyone go through an effort or attempt to get people not to cooperate?"

Monroe Freedman, like Yellen a law professor at Hofstra University, said he thinks the Jones lawyers released so much inflammatory information that they were sending a message they aren't interested in settling the case.

"I was a little surprised they had chosen to explode the bomb rather than keep it in their arsenal," Freedman said. "If I read anything into it, it would be they are not optimistic about settlement possibilities. Their counter in settlement talks would be, 'You don't want this stuff all over the front page." Now it is, and there's nothing to bargain with."

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