Part 3 

Kathleen's Story

In early 1997, an anonymous female caller phoned Paula Jones' lawyer and said she too was harassed by Clinton. Then she told the story of Kathleen Willey, down to her husband's suicide.

Willey denies being the caller who tipped off the Jones lawyers.

Regardless, the Jones lawyer gave the tip to Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, who quickly put the pieces together and sent a letter to Kathleen Willey asking to meet her to discuss an unspecified topic of "mutual interest."

Eventually, Willey agreed to meet with Isikoff at a restaurant in Fredericksburg. She was surprised to learn that he knew the whole story, she says, and when he pressed her to tell him the tale, she asked him, "What about Chelsea? What impact would a story like this have on her?"

Willey told the White House Isikoff was "after her," she says, in hopes they would help keep her name out of the press. Eventually, following repeated "relentless" calls from Isikoff, she agreed to meet him at the downtown office of her lawyer, Dan Gecker, in March 1997.

She told Isikoff the story off the record, she says, hoping that it would get him off her back and that he still wouldn't be able to write it. But Isikoff asked if there were any people who could confirm the story, who had heard her tell it at the time. Willey named her former White House co-worker Linda Tripp, and her best friend, Julie Hiatt Steele.

At the time, according to Isikoff's book, the reporter was only peripherally aware of Tripp. His interviews with Tripp about Kathy Willey led to his uncovering the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he writes.

As for Julie Hiatt Steele, Kathleen Willey's relationship with her went back nearly 20 years. Their on-again-off-again friendship started in the late 1970s when Steele and her then-husband signed a contract to buy the Willey home during a time of financial difficulty for the Willeys.

However, at the last minute Ed Willey pulled out of the transaction, leading to a lawsuit by the Steeles. Remarkably, they ended up friends. The Willeys and Steeles vacationed at Cape Hatteras and Kathleen Willey and Julie Hiatt Steele took a candy-making class together and baked cookies at Christmas. Steele's daughters baby-sat the Willey children.

After years of estrangement, the two were reunited in the early 1990s following the death of Steele's four-day-old son Ben, Willey says. Willey helped Steele through the funeral, she says, and visited Ben's grave at Hollywood Cemetery for several years with Steele, once planting perennials there. (Steele, however, has said Willey was not at all supportive during the period of Ben's death.)

In the aftermath of Ed Willey's suicide, Kathleen Willey says, Steele looked after her and made her seek hospital care for emotional exhaustion.

However, their friendship ended in 1997 over Isikoff's article for Newsweek. Steele claims that as Isikoff was headed to her home, Willey phoned and asked her to lie to the reporter and confirm the story. Steele says that day was the first time she heard the story and that Willey never told her the day it allegedly happened in 1993.

But phone records only show a one-minute call from Willey's cellular phone to Steele's home and it was made after Isikoff had already arrived, Willey says.

"It would have been impossible to tell her that story in one or two minutes and convince her she could pull that off with a reporter from Newsweek who had already been there for 45 minutes," says Willey.

But Steele's lawyer, Nancy Luque, says, "Kathy Willey would like us all to believe that her cell phone is the only telephone in America. However, it's fairly clear she called from her lawyer's office ... they would not produce the law firm [telephone] records. ... It's ridiculous to say that just because it isn't on her cell-phone records that she didn't make the call."

Nevertheless, Gecker, Willey's attorney, says the only reason they fought it is because Luque subpoenaed all of his law firm's phone records from 1993 to the present. He says he was with Willey the whole time she was at his office that day and she only called Steele once, to let her give directions to Isikoff, who was still at Gecker's office.

Willey contends the only reason she went on "60 Minutes" is because producers told her they believed Clinton representatives pressured Steele into lying by raising questions about the legality of the adoption of her Romanian son. She says she thought that would be the show's topic, not the Oval Office incident. Gecker says he also heard the story from the producers: "I've got notes of that meeting." (The "60 Minutes" producers have not said whether or not they approached Willey with the information, saying only that they discussed everything pertinent on the air.)

"I wanted to believe in my heart that's why Julie Steele had done what she had done. Any mother, any father, any parent can understand betraying a friend for that reason," Willey says, "[but the adoption allegation] never came out, so I've got to believe that's not the reason."

However, Luque says she's also spoken to the "60 Minutes" producers and was told that it was Willey who told them about the adoption, all the while knowing the adoption was fully legal. "To me, that's the most despicable thing you can do, raising questions about another woman's child," Luque says.

Steele is the only person indicted by Ken Starr in the Clinton sex scandal. Facing allegations of obstruction of justice and perjury, Steele was acquitted this year in a mistrial.

Nevertheless, both women have credibility issues. Willey has admitted lying to the FBI about an old boyfriend because she didn't want it known she had dated him. What's more, Luque adds, Willey asked Steele to lie to the same boyfriend to confirm a fake story that Willey was pregnant. (Willey says Steele lied of her own volition without being asked.)

Willey says she feels "betrayed" because Steele sold photos of her to The National Enquirer, CNN and Time for $15,500, a fact confirmed in Steele's trial. What's more, Steele leaked to the media secrets that were told in confidence between girlfriends, Willey alleges.

But, Luque says if anyone's been betrayed, it's Steele. "Julie feels betrayed by having to spend $750,000 in legal fees to get out of the mess that Kathy Willey put her in. ... [Willey] has the ability to completely turn something inside out. The fact is, it's Kathy that betrayed Julie and all so she could sell a book."

Willey, she continues, "paints herself as this sweet little thing who's been betrayed and nothing's farther from the truth." In fact, her client's been victimized by Willey in many ways, Luque says, recalling how on the witness stand Willey admitted calling Steele a c— during a run-in at the Ukrop's across from Chesterfield Towne Center earlier this year.

"Is there something wrong with that?" Willey asks. "They left out the most important word: I called her a lying c—. Luque has said that women hate that word, that it's the worst word you can use for a woman. Exactly. Why do you think I used it?"

As for Steele herself, her only comment for this story is, "I'm not angry with Kathy. I have only been angry with myself for repeatedly allowing her into my life."

Not long after Isikoff's story hit in 1997, the Paula Jones lawyers began seeking Willey's testimony to prove a pattern of conduct by Clinton.

Willey wanted no part of it, she says. Gecker, her lawyer, argued Willey had no relevant information to offer. Her case happened two years later, it was markedly different, she was not a paid employee like Paula Jones had been and it was a different workplace.

Still, Willey was made to testify. The deposition was held at the federal courthouse on Main Street on a Saturday to avoid the press.

In the deposition, Willey, who later received an immunity agreement, answered 63 times "I don't recall" to questions about the alleged Oval Office incident, despite the fact that she had told Isikoff a detailed version a year earlier.

What changed? The "visitor," says Kathleen Willey.

Two days before her deposition, Willey says, she was out walking her dogs early one morning on a stretch of rural road when a dark-clad jogger approached. She says he threatened her and her children.

"You get the message?" she says he asked.

So, in the deposition, she says, "I wasn't playing games. I was just very, very scared." She believes, given her state of mind, she says, that her testimony was not perjurious.

Willey spent a long time afraid for her life, she says, though "now I don't worry as much as I did before. I know that during the time of the deposition I was certainly more dangerous to the White House than I am now." There are ongoing investigations into some of her claims of intimidation, she says.

She identified the "visitor" from a photograph given to her by a news reporter, she says, as Cody Shearer, a member of a prominent Democratic family with ties to the Clinton Administration.

Adding a strange coda to the story, after Shearer was named in connection with the incident on a national talk show on which Willey was appearing this May, Pat Buchanan's mentally unstable older brother broke into Shearer's garage while brandishing a weapon. Shearer has denied that he was the visitor who accosted Willey and says he has proof that he was across the country on the day she claims it happened.

There have been other strange incidents, too. Willey remembers going out onto her porch early one morning calling for her dog to come in. It was still dark out and none of her dogs answered, which was highly unusual. Then lit by a porch light, she noticed the shadow of a man stretching out from below her deck.

She ran and got her boyfriend, Bill Schwicker, a rugged outdoorsman and Vietnam vet. "I came awake like it's O Dark 30 and you come awake because the Viet Cong are coming through the woods," he recalls. He grabbed his clothes and his guns, but "whoever it was was gone. My heart was beating like it hasn't in 30 years."

Not all her conspirators have hidden in the dark, however.

Multimillionaire Democratic fund-raiser Nate Landow and Willey dated briefly during 1994. Three years later, out of the blue, she says, he called and asked her to come to his estate for a weekend. She did, and he badgered her about how she was going to testify in the Jones lawsuit.

Landow has been questioned by a federal grand jury after revelations that his lawyer hired a detective to investigate Willey and obtain her phone records. Landow disavowed any knowledge of it in press reports. The private investigator later came forward to say that he had walked away from the job to investigate and intimidate Willey.

These days, Kathleen Willey says living in the eye of the scandal hurricane has weathered her strength, but she's also looking forward to getting her life back, she says.

These have been crazy times. Now engaged to Bill Schwicker, Willey and her fiancee are on a first-name basis with Barbara Walters, the famed interviewer, because Walters called Willey so much when she was the "get" interview before Monica. Among the others that have phoned: an agent who wanted to negotiate an appearance in Playboy or Penthouse. Willey said no.

There's also the strange minutiae like whether her diamond earrings are real, a debate that took place in the Washington Post. (Hold your breath: They're real, she reveals.)

Then there's the press camping out in her driveway, ignoring her no trespassing signs and knocking on her doors and windows, making her a virtual prisoner in her home, Willey says.

But Willey's life does have many bright moments. Her home is beautifully appointed, like a showplace straight from the pages of Southern Living. Relaxed and airy with a Scandanavian feel, it features a millstone built into the fireplace, exposed natural timber beams and a sanded tree, branches and all, supporting the case.

First and foremost, though, there's Schwicker, a sea captain who leads high-dollar fly-and-tackle expeditions and ecological tours in the Florida Keys. He was close friends with Ed Willey, one of his favorite customers. She and Schwicker kept in touch in the years following Ed's death and began to date last year, not long after her deposition in the Jones case. He has stood steadfastly by her through the whole ordeal, she says.

"I've made friends and I've lost friends," she says. "I met a wonderful man who's been my sole support. There's not a whole lot of people who could walk into a situation like this and stick with it and we've been to hell and back."

A lifelong bachelor, the 55-year-old Schwicker popped the question June 2, Willey's birthday, while they sat on a fence at the secluded woodland pond near Willey's home. They plan to get married in either August or November and will travel between his home in Florida and hers here.

Given all that's happened to her, perhaps the most drastic change in Willey is her disillusionment with the political system and Clinton in particular.

"Given my personal experience, I know in my heart that all of the accusations against him were right, were true. I just thought it was a terrible shame. ... There had been so much promise in his administration and I had been so proud of the part we had played in it. I was really disgusted with his behavior and also frightened because of the things that happened to me," she says. "I saw the real Clinton administration after the things that had happened to me. ... I just felt real disgusted for the whole lot of them. ... They'd done so much damage to the country."

But mostly, "I found out the hard way that when people give you their word, a lot of time it means nothing. I found out in the political world, there's virtually no loyalty."

On a personal level, she says, "I'd like a public apology from [Clinton] but it will never happen. He has trashed me. His people have threatened me and my family. I think he owes a lot of people a lot of apologies. I was glad to see him apologize to Monica but he only did it because he was under the gun. He didn't do it because he was truly sorry."

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