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Paula Jones Vows to Appeal Harassment Case Decision

By Lois Romano
The Washington Post
DALLAS

A teary Paula Jones, barely able to compose herself, announced Thursday that she will appeal a federal judge's ruling that her sexual harassment case against President Clinton has no merit.

"I have not come this far to see the law let men who have done such things dodge their responsibility," said Jones. "I believe what Mr. Clinton did to me was wrong, and the law protects women who are subjected to that kind of abuse of power."

It was one of the few times the public has heard Jones speak since she alleged in a 1994 civil lawsuit that Clinton had dropped his pants and asked her for oral sex in a Little Rock, Ark., hotel room on May 8, 1991, when she was a low-level state employee and he was governor of Arkansas.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright threw out Jones' case on April 1, saying that Clinton's alleged behavior may have been "boorish and offensive" but did not constitute sexual harassment. Jones said nothing in the wake of Wright's decision until Thursday, when she and her lawyers made clear they would continue to press the legal battle surrounding President Clinton's personal life to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as he finishes his remaining 2 years in office.

While many legal experts said Jones faces an uphill battle, the case could make its way again to the Supreme Court, which already set one precedent last year by decreeing that the Jones lawsuit could proceed while Clinton was in office.

Clinton's attorney, Robert S. Bennett, issued a statement repeating that Clinton "unequivocally" denied Jones' allegations. "We are confident that the appellate court will not permit Paula Jones and her supporters to pursue this case," he said. "It is unfortunate that our legal system can nonetheless continued to be abused by Mrs. Jones's political and financial supporters who wish to harm the president."

White House aides said they were confident the appeal would do little to Clinton's political standing because the public already has made its judgment on Jones and her allegations. "Politically, it's over," said presidential counselor Paul Begala. "I don't want to speak ill of the dead and this case is dead."

In Wright's April 1 ruling, the judge maintained that Jones had failed to prove that she was damaged - either personally or professionally - by Clinton's alleged sexual overture, meaning that there were "no genuine issues for trial." The case had been scheduled to go to trial next month.

Wright diminished the encounter as a single incident that fell far below the legal standard needed to establish a "hostile workplace" in a harassment case.

"There is no one free flash' rule recognized in the law," responded Donovan CampbellJr., Jones lead attorney.