After the Monica Feast Comes the Reckoning

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Monica who? It seems an eternity since the name of Monica Lewinsky last came up in the nationís affairs. But on Thursday, Lewinsky, and the whole national ordeal associated with her, resurfaced briefly in a long-in-arriving windup order from the judge who presided over the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright followed up her historic April contempt of court ruling against President Clinton with a monetary sanction against him: $90,686 for having provided false testimony under oath about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky in the Jones lawsuit. The money ó minus $1,202, which will go to the court to reimburse its own costs ó will be split between Jones and her attorneys for the expenses they incurred as a result of the Presidentís failure to testify truthfully.

The Jones legal team, whose deposition of the President set off the entire impeachment avalanche, had asked for nearly $500,000. But Judge Wright said the sanctions were "not imposed to punish" but rather to compensate for actual loss. Although Clintonís lawyers said the penalty should be much lower, on the order of $33,737, they accepted the judge's ruling. "Judge Wright has always made clear that if Clinton wanted to litigate her contempt findings, he risked opening up a whole can of worms," says TIME magazine White House correspondent Jay Branegan. No one at the White House likes the contempt finding and the penalty, reports Branegan, but some Clinton supporters are saying that rather than have the country go through the constitutional crisis of an impeachment, it would have been better to have the matter settled this way from the beginning. Though the whole saga is now very nearly closed, a Monica finale of sorts still awaits: A final report from Ken Starr is still due.