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Paula Jones' Lawyer Tells of 11th-Hour Clinton Concession

October 02, 1994| From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — In an eleventh-hour settlement offer in the Paula Corbin Jones sexual harassment case, President Clinton conceded that he may have met the woman in a hotel room and said he regretted "untrue assertions" made about her, Jones' lawyer said Saturday.

Joseph Cammarata disclosed the draft of a statement by Clinton, which the President's lawyer faxed to Jones' lawyers in May in an attempt to stave off a lawsuit.

The settlement talks delayed the filing of the lawsuit, but negotiations collapsed when White House sources were quoted on television as saying that the delay was due to Jones' not having a case.

According to Cammarata, Clinton's draft statement says: "I do not challenge" Jones' "claim" that the two met in a room at the Excelsior Hotel in 1991, although "I have no recollection" of it. "I may very well have met her in the past.

"She did not engage in any improper or sexual conduct" and "I regret the untrue assertions which have been made about her conduct which may have adversely challenged her character and good name."

It had been known that Clinton offered a statement to settle the matter, but its terms had not been disclosed.

The New York Times Magazine first obtained the text of last May's statement for a story on Clinton lawyer Robert S. Bennett being published today.

Jones claims that while she was a state worker attending a public function at the hotel, Clinton dispatched a state police officer to summon her to a room, where he then suggested she engage in a sexual act with him. She said she declined. Clinton supporters have suggested Jones made up the story.

A spokeswoman for Jones said later Saturday that the suit will be dropped if Clinton reads a statement to reporters saying he does not deny the meeting took place and absolving her of any improper or sexual conduct.

Cindy Hays, director of the Paula Jones Legal Defense Fund in Washington, said the President has until noon next Sunday to read the statement and that the lawsuit would be dismissed 30 days after that, provided nobody on the White House staff or other Clinton operatives make statements about Jones or the lawsuit.

If Clinton refuses, Jones will proceed with her lawsuit, which seeks more than $700,000 in damages, Hays said.

"Paula Jones is not in this for money. She's in it so she can get her good name and good reputation back," Hays said. "She is willing for the President to read the statement, and then she'll go away."

The statement proposed by Jones' attorneys Saturday would have the President say:

"I do not deny meeting Paula Jones on May 8, 1991, in a room at the Excelsior Hotel. She did not engage in any improper or sexual conduct. I believe her to be a truthful and moral person. I am sorry for the untrue assertions which have been made about her and which have adversely affected her character, good name and reputation. I have no further comment, today or ever, on my own conduct or my prior statements. Neither I, nor my staff, will have any further comment on this matter."

Bennett, Clinton's attorney, could not be reached for comment Saturday. No one answered the telephone at his Washington office.

The draft statement originated by the Clinton camp would have the President saying he had no recollection of meeting with Jones at the hotel but would not challenge her claim that they had met there, and that he may have met her in the past. The rest of the two statements are the same.

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