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N.Y. Mogul Reportedly Renews Offer to Settle Jones Lawsuit

October 31, 1998|RICHARD A. SERRANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — In yet another strange twist, a New York real estate mogul plans to hand Paula Corbin Jones a check for $1 million today as inducement to restart negotiations and bring an end to her sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton, sources said Friday.

But--as in all things attached to this on-again, off-again lawsuit--there is a catch: If an agreement is not reached within a specified time, the $1 million would go back to tycoon Abe Hirschfeld.

The millionaire, who made his fortune in parking lots, originally agreed to put up $1 million to "make the case go away" if it could be matched with money from Clinton. But the president, clearly not keen on joining hands with Hirschfeld at a time when the tycoon faces 123 counts of federal income tax evasion, declined to participate and Hirschfeld withdrew that offer earlier this week.

Hirschfeld has described Jones as an "elegant lady" but said that the case is simply distracting the government from doing the people's business.

According to sources close to both camps, Jones and Hirschfeld are to appear together at the Mayflower Hotel here today. But he will say that, if a settlement is not reached within a specified period of time, with details to be supplied today, she must give the money back.

But all of this could change overnight, the sources warned.

Robert S. Bennett, Clinton's personal lawyer on the Jones case, said Friday that there are no current settlement talks and that he knew nothing of Hirschfeld's latest plan.

Bennett said that at one time Clinton was willing to pay Jones $700,000 to settle the case. But even that, combined with Hirschfeld's $1 million, might not be enough.

Jones lawyers already have incurred about $1.5 million in costs and fees. The conservative Rutherford Institute has spent about $400,000 in other legal assistance. And Jones' first lawyers have filed court papers asking for $800,000 that they maintain they are owed. That would come to about $2.7 million.

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