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Ex-Aide Alleges Fondling by Clinton

Inquiry: Oval Office visit ended in 'unexpected' sexual advance, Kathleen Willey testified. President says it was only a hug.

March 14, 1998|JODI WILGOREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — In a "very unexpected" advance that "unnerved" her, former White House volunteer Kathleen E. Willey said under oath that a sympathetic hug turned sexual when President Clinton fondled her while she resisted.

"The hug just continued longer than I expected," Willey, now 51, testified in a deposition in the Paula Corbin Jones sexual-harassment case released Friday. Asked whether there was a sexual aspect to the encounter, Willey said: "I think that's where he was going. . . . I felt like it was more than just a platonic hug."

Distraught over financial woes, Willey went to the Oval Office seeking a paying job in the federal government. What she got, she testified, was a cup of coffee in the president's private dining room, then an awkward moment in the hallway where Clinton fumbled for her breasts and "placed my hands on his genitals."

The president was sexually aroused, she added.

"I recall him saying that he had wanted to do that for a long time," Willey testified. "I just resisted," she said in her three-hour, 20-minute deposition on Jan. 11.

Willey's husband, embroiled in a growing scandal over his financial dealings, committed suicide the very day she first met with Clinton.

After the Nov. 29, 1993, encounter, Willey testified, she met alone with Clinton in the Oval Office two more times, again having coffee in the adjacent private area where she says he had made the pass at her. She asked Clinton that they put the incident behind them, she said.

Willey soon got the paying job she had asked for, and the next year--at the president's request, according to the deposition--she represented the United States at international conclaves in Copenhagen and Jakarta, Indonesia. She now serves on the board of the USO, which provides for the social needs of military personnel.

"He was very concerned and solicitous," Willey said of the president. "He said they would try to help me."

In his own deposition in the Jones case, Clinton "emphatically" denied Willey's version of events, saying he never had "any form of sexual relations" with her.

"It did not happen," the president testified.

"I did to her what I have done to scores and scores of men and women who have worked for me or been my friends over the years," Clinton added. "I embraced her, I put my arms around her, I may have even kissed her on the forehead. There was nothing sexual about it."

Willey's deposition paints the fullest portrait to date--and the first one related under oath--of a crucial incident in the steamy allegations surrounding Clinton. Although Jones' lawyers have sought out many women they believed to have had sexual relationships with the president, it is Willey's tale that most closely mirrors Jones' allegations: a fleeting, unwanted pass by the president rather than an extended adulterous affair.

*

On Tuesday, Willey testified before the federal grand jury that is hearing evidence in independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's investigation of whether Clinton had a sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky and encouraged her or others to lie about it.

The CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes" is scheduled on Sunday to broadcast a lengthy interview with Willey.

Jones' lawyers also argue that Willey was pressured by the White House to stay quiet, first with surprising job opportunities, and later when discussing her testimony with Nate Landow, a prominent Democratic fund-raiser.

"Mr. Clinton and his agents provided these federal jobs and appointments to Ms. Willey in order to procure her silence about her sexual assault at the hands of Mr. Clinton within the White House itself," Jones' attorneys argue in legal papers filed Friday. They allege that "Mr. Landow was serving as an intermediary for Mr. Clinton and his agents in attempting to influence Ms. Willey to withhold or alter her deposition testimony in this case."

*

According to Willey, her first meeting with Clinton started out innocently enough.

He hugged her for "a few seconds" when she arrived, then sat behind his desk, Willey said. They talked about her troubles--"Our whole family dynamics had changed," Willey testified--for less than half an hour, then went to get some coffee. In that remote room, they did not touch.

"Then he hugged me again and said that they would try to help me," Willey recalled of the walk back to the Oval Office.

"Was there any kissing involved during the hug?" asked Donovan Campbell, Jones' lawyer.

"There was an attempt," she said.

"And what was your response to that attempt?" Campbell asked.

"Surprise," said Willey.

"Did you allow him to kiss you?" asked Campbell.

"I don't think so," she responded.

When Willey seemed uncomfortable relating the most graphic portion of her story, her attorney asked that law clerks who were sitting in on the deposition leave the room. She said she could not recall which of her hands Clinton placed on his genitals, or how long it lasted.

"What was your reaction?" Campbell asked.

"It was very unexpected," Willey said.

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