Advertisement
Share

Lewinsky Signs All-Star Players in Cacheris & Stein

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

When prominent lawyers gathered for tennis a few years ago at the suburban Virginia home of Plato Cacheris, the host confidently announced the pairing.

“Jake and I will take you on,” he told his fellow members of the bar, referring to Jacob A. Stein, his longtime friend and confidant.

The question now is what this power doubles pair is going to do to help their newest client, Monica S. Lewinsky, as they take on independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.

Advertisement

Lewinsky is now in the care of members of the capital’s elite legal power circle. And the case histories of these two seasoned Washington lawyers offer some insights into how they might handle the battle with Starr.

Still, the fate of Lewinsky depends on a number of factors, including the nature of her relationship with President Clinton and whether Lewinksy is willing to tell her new attorneys--and prosecutors--exactly what went on.

Cacheris and Stein “must assess their client, find out what really happened and then protect her in the best way feasible,” said a lawyer friend of both men who declined to be identified.

Lewinsky’s previous attorney, Los Angeles malpractice lawyer William H. Ginsburg, “all but ruined her with his erratic, often-flippant statements about what her involvement was,” this lawyer declared.

“So she has a major credibility problem that her new team will have to deal with. Her own statements only deepened it, like one of her tape-recorded comments, ‘I’ve lied all my life.’ ”

Lewinsky’s new lawyers also come into the case at a critical juncture. Following a federal judge’s ruling that Lewinsky did not have a promise of immunity from Starr’s team, the 24-year-old from Beverly Hills faces possible indictment for perjury, if Starr believes her tape-recorded conversations with Linda Tripp. She confides on the tapes that she had a sexual relationship with the president. The tapes conflict with her denial of any relationship in her sworn affidavit in the now-dismissed Paula Corbin Jones civil lawsuit.

Parents Reportedly Sought Out Lawyers

But if Lewinsky now acknowledges a relationship “and gives Starr what he’s looking for,” her new lawyers may have no trouble getting her immunity from prosecution, according to legal experts.

Sources close to the matter said that Lewinsky’s mother, Marcia Lewis of New York, and her father, Dr. Bernard Lewinsky of Los Angeles, recently retained Cacheris and Stein after seeking them out and conferring with them. The lawyers, who run separate small law firms, suggested that they take the case jointly.

Their fees, commensurate with the top echelon of Washington defense attorneys, run between $400 and $500 a hour.

“They’ll make a very dynamic duo,” said Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate associate prosecutor who has worked with and against both men. “They have navigated these waters before.”

In 1974, Cacheris and Stein represented separate clients in the Watergate cover-up trial of former President Nixon’s top aides. Cacheris and William G. Hundley defended former Atty. Gen. John N. Mitchell, who staunchly refused their suggestions that he plead guilty to reduced charges and testify for the government.

Mitchell was convicted of conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice and served a prison term. Stein’s client, Nixon campaign lawyer Kenneth Parkinson, was acquitted of criminal conspiracy.

Cacheris built a tennis court with a small part of the $300,000 in legal fees charged to Mitchell--a bill that the former attorney general never fully paid before his death.

But Cacheris and Hundley, who both served in the Justice Department in the 1960s, grew fond of Mitchell for his loyalty to Nixon and never pressed him for full payment. They concluded--as do many Washington lawyers--that the publicity they received from the celebrated Watergate case compensated for their lost wages.

Cacheris Tennis Court a Legal Microcosm

While Lewinsky’s case certainly could be expected to provide such non-monetary compensation, it is understood that her family has agreed to foot the full legal bill.

The tennis court where Cacheris and Stein often have shown their athletic prowess is a microcosm of the capital’s legal community and their unofficial players’ club is well represented in the ever-growing stable of lawyers defending individuals subpoenaed or targeted by special prosecutor Starr.

Hundley, once a regular, represents Clinton’s golfing pal, attorney Vernon E. Jordan Jr., who has been called before Starr’s grand jury repeatedly to explain why he tried to line up a job for Lewinsky when she left government service.

Another regular is Robert S. Bennett, the president’s lawyer in the Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, which was dismissed earlier this year by a federal judge in Little Rock, Ark.

Cacheris, 69, a onetime federal prosecutor in Northern Virginia, is a stickler for insisting on the truth--so much so, in fact, that he often arranges for clients to take lie-detector tests.

“It’s for my own protection and for theirs,” he once told a reporter. “So many defendants in Washington wind up being charged with perjury. There’s no reason this should happen.”

In the Iran-Contra scandal, Cacheris represented Fawn Hall, the secretary of former White House aide Oliver L. North. Hall had helped North smuggle top-secret records out of the White House.

Cacheris obtained immunity for Hall in return for her testimony at North’s trial.

Cacheris Defended CIA Spy Ames

Four years ago, he accepted a court appointment to defend CIA spy Aldrich H. Ames. Although Cacheris was prepared to attack the legality of the government’s case, Ames decided to plead guilty and receive a life sentence in return for a limited prison term for his wife, who must care for their small son.

Cacheris, who like Stein shuns the Washington social scene and rarely accepts television appearances, has one indulgence, according to his wife, Ethel. He has a closet full of tailored $1,500 suits, most of them of Tasmanian merino wool.

Not bad for the son of a Greek immigrant streetcar motorman who put himself through Georgetown University and its law school.

Stein, 73, who favors Great Gatsby-style chalk-stripe suits and two-tone shoes, brings Lewinsky the distinct experience of having once been in Starr’s position. Stein served as an independent counsel in 1984 in an inquiry that cleared a top Reagan White House aide, Edwin Meese III, of allegations of financial irregularities.

Ben-Veniste, who once opposed Stein and Cacheris in Watergate legal cases and later in weekend tennis matches, credits Stein with “a great sense of humor and a balanced outlook on life.”

“When he was named an independent counsel,” Ben-Veniste recalled, “Stein was asked how the honor felt. He told a group of lawyers that at a point in life where his other faculties were in decline, he was very glad to get subpoena power.”

Cacheris and Stein are both acquainted with Starr, although they have not been chummy with him. They also know Starr’s chief deputy, Jackie Bennett, and associate counsel Robert Bittman, whose father, William Bittman, represented Watergate figure Howard Hunt.

Terry B. Adamson, a veteran Washington attorney and close friend of Starr’s, said the fact that Cacheris and Stein “are well-experienced with the ways of the Justice Department and the conduct of high-profile cases . . . is bound to be helpful.”

Stein last week received an award from the Council for Court Excellence presented by Starr himself, who is president of the legal group.

Obscured by the departure of Ginsburg has been the emergence of Judy A. Smith as a spokeswoman for Lewinsky and her family. Smith gained experience working with the press as a spokeswoman and associate counsel for Lawrence E. Walsh, independent counsel in the Iran-Contra case.

Smith later handled media relations for U.S. Atty. Jay Stephens here, a job that she left to become deputy White House press secretary for former President Bush. Smith, who operates her own New York-Washington public relations firm, was hired at the suggestion of Lewinsky’s mother.

Times staff writer David Willman contributed to this story.

* GINSBURG SPEAKS OUT: Lawyer says it was his idea to leave the Lewinsky case. B1


Advertisement