Clinton's tormentor finally settles
By Jay Branegan/Washington
On the outside, Paula Jones seemed to have extracted a lot for launching a sexual-harassment case against President Clinton: calmer hair, better teeth, a new nose. But by late this summer she had also seen her case thrown out by a lower court, and her real life was feeling more like an episode from Married...With Children than a segment on Entertainment Tonight: between makeovers, she was a mother with two young kids and an unemployed husband. "After four years, Paula was getting tired," says a family friend. "They were cooped up in this small one-bedroom apartment. She didn't have many friends, her husband Steve spent all day watching those TV talk shows. He was like a caged animal."
So two months ago, after the President admitted to a dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, Jones took that as vindication of her own claim that Clinton made a sexual advance toward her in 1991. She then dropped her demand for an apology, a key reason why earlier settlement talks had foundered. Last Friday, after negotiations complicated by a million-dollar sweetener from eccentric New York millionaire Abe Hirschfeld, Jones settled the case for $850,000--a tidy premium over the $700,000 she sought when she brought it in 1994.
Jones cried when she heard the news and said, "It's over, I'm glad," while her supporters called the huge sum a de facto apology. Clinton allies countered that it was simply a cost-effective way to get behind him a case in which the President always maintained his innocence.
Although Jones' friend and adviser Susan Carpenter-McMillan often insisted that the case was "never about money," it was a squabble over dollars within the Jones camp that nearly scuttled last week's deal. When the negotiations reopened last September, Jones started at $1 million and Clinton's side eventually countered with $700,000. It seemed only a matter of splitting the difference until Hirschfeld said he would pay Jones $1 million if she would drop the case.
Then all hell broke loose. Jones doubled her demand to $2 million; a previous set of lawyers rushed in with an $800,000 lien against her; her current lawyers in Dallas, who had run up more than $1.5 million in legal costs, announced after fighting with husband Steve Jones and McMillan that they would quit the case; and Clinton's lawyers backed away from the whole circus. Things were stalled until last week when the newest Jones attorney, Susan's husband William McMillan, approached Bennett and agreed to put in writing that Hirschfeld's offer was off the table. The agreement says the $850,000 is the "sole consideration," meaning no other money is legally part of the deal. But Hirschfeld's attorney said last week that the $1 million is still available.
How much will Jones pocket from the deal? Certainly not the full amount, since she has had at least five sets of lawyers with possible legal bills to present. (The Rutherford Institute has run up $400,000 on her behalf.) Clinton should be able to fund the payout from his insurance and his Legal Expense Trust, which as of August held about $1 million. The settlement does not exempt him from a possible contempt citation by federal judge Susan Webber Wright for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky in the Jones case. But the deal will give the President yet another boost going into this week's impeachment hearings. In that light, it looks like a bargain.
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Cover Date: November 23, 1998
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