(3 of 10)
That Thursday, July 23, was Monica's 25th birthday. She had planned a family barbecue at her father's home in Brentwood, Calif., but her comings and goings have been evoking the same response as celebrity weddings do, so she opted for a French restaurant dinner instead. As a present, she told her family, "I want my life back."
Starr would seem the last person likely to give it to her, but a lot had changed since they first met six months before, and Monica was in a very different place. For one, she had a real reason to fear that she could be indicted: Starr had made a conspicuous point of building his case without her, collecting evidence piece by piece from her friends, fellow interns, her mother, now even the Secret Service, that could turn her denials to powder.
At the same time, her room to maneuver disappeared in the public, hateful war her lawyer William Ginsburg had waged with Starr's office. He likened the prosecutors to storm troopers, animals, a "danger to the moral fabric of our society." In this light Monica was in a fight of good vs. evil; cooperating in any way with the investigation would itself be the worst sort of collaboration. From Starr's perspective, Ginsburg completely shredded Lewinsky's credibility without her saying a word; he implied that she had a foggy memory and a knack for fantasy, and had things in her past that might be unsavory. It was a nightmarish result: through May, Starr didn't trust her, and she didn't like him. When summoned to provide a handwriting sample in Los Angeles on May 28, she arrived at the local FBI office but refused to scratch out what they asked for.
The following week, she had new lawyers, Plato Cacheris and Jacob Stein, who brought with them years of experience, hosts of connections and a chance for a new emotional climate. Their first task was damage control. They needed to bolster her credibility with Starr and improve Starr's image with her. On June 2 they had their first meeting with Starr's team, conducted in total privacy, to convince the Starr camp that unlike the uncorkable Ginsburg, they were serious about doing this deal quietly and without publicity. That meeting stayed secret. "We didn't want any ceremony," says Stein. "That proved we could deal with them honorably and they would deal with us honorably." Lewinsky's team made clear from the outset that they would not allow their client to plead guilty to any crime. Don't even talk about a plea, they said. And Starr agreed.
That's because Starr was in a new place too. However useful as a pressure tactic, actually indicting Lewinsky for perjury would have guaranteed a long trial and an even longer delay in the prosecutor's pursuit of his real targets. Moreover, now that he had set the clock ticking on Clinton's testimony, it was more important than ever that he hear from Monica first. She was the force who would move the President before his grand jurors. As a Lewinsky lawyer told TIME, "They needed us. They were driven to us."