Lawsuit filed against Clinton in sex case

PRESIDENT Bill Clinton was sued yesterday in Little Rock by Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, who says that he tried to force her to have sex with him three years ago when he was governor.

Amid scenes of confusion outside the courthouse in Little Rock, Ms Jones, 27, finally filed suit demanding dollars 750,000 ( pounds 500,000) and an apology from Mr Clinton and Danny Ferguson, an Arkansas state trooper. She alleges that it was Mr Ferguson who asked her to go to Mr Clinton's hotel room.

The White House started its counter-attack immediately yesterday when Mr Clinton's private attorney held a news conference to discredit Ms Jones as motivated by greed and spurred on by Mr Clinton's conservative enemies.

The 20-page document filed in the court gives graphic details of how Mr Clinton is alleged to have propositioned Ms Jones on 8 May 1991. Whatever the outcome of the case, it is likely to reinforce the President's reputation as a womaniser with gross tastes.

Earlier Ms Jones's motives - though not her story - were questioned by her own sister, Charlotte Brown, on Little Rock television. She said that Ms Jones had told her about the incident with Mr Clinton at the Excelsior hotel soon after it happened but appeared 'thrilled' rather than distressed by what had happened.

Mrs Brown says that just before a news conference in Washington earlier this year at which Ms Jones first made her allegations public, her sister said to her: 'Whichever way it went, it smelled (sic) money.'

In a statement yesterday Ms Jones was at pains to deny that her motive was financial, saying that she and her husband would donate any proceeds from the case to a Little Rock charity.

Mystery still surrounds the delay in filing suit on Thursday. This may have been connected with Ms Jones getting a new lawyer but the right-wing Washington Times, usually well informed about moves by Mr Clinton's detractors, said the delay was because of negotiations over a possible settlement.

In an attempt to discredit Ms Jones's allegations before they were carried by the evening television news, Robert Bennett, Mr Clinton's lawyer, said the suit was to do with 'tabloid trash, money, book contracts and television shows'. Ms Jones had said earlier that the case was 'about the powerful taking advantage of the weak'.

Mr Bennet said: 'We absolutely deny this incident occurred.' He said Mr Clinton would never pay Ms Jones money or issue an apology. Portraying her as the creature of extreme conservatives he said: 'To some extent this woman is being used . . . I feel sorry for her.' He noted that she had promised to donate any profits from the trial to charity but not money from television or movie deals.

Her lawyer, Gilbert Davis, speaking on the Little Rock court house steps, piously asked yesterday that the case be 'tried in (a) courtroom and not in the media'. In practice, however, both sides are following the precedents set by the Michael Jackson and Lorena Bob bitt trials, in which every detail of sexual behaviour was revealed.

Mr Clinton says the allegations are wholly untrue and he has no memory of meeting Ms Jones though admits he may have done so at a political event. She does, however, have supporting witnesses who say that she did see the Arkansas governor on 8 May 1991 and that she told her friends immediately - and some months before he announced his candidacy for the presidency - that Mr Clinton had propositioned her.