Packwood offers excerpts from supporters' depositions to challenge accusers


WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Packwood took a more aggressive tack against his accusers yesterday as his office offered excerpts of depositions from his supporters in an effort to cast doubt on some of the 19 women who have charged him with sexual misconduct.

At the same time, the senator's office maintained that investigators from the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics had unfairly ignored the accounts of some supporters before the committee ruled this spring that there was "substantial credible evidence" against him.

Defenders of Mr. Packwood's integrity are currently being deposed by his own volunteer lawyers in expectation that his sudden call last week for public hearings into his case will be granted.

One accuser, Gena Hutton, dismissed that strategy as an 11th-hour attempt to intimidate the women in advance of public hearings.

"I am here to tell you that I will appear in an open hearing," Ms. Hutton said in a telephone interview. "I will tell the truth, the same story I have told all along," she said of her effort to confront the senator with the accusation that he had suddenly pawed her and forcibly kissed her. "I am not intimidated by his attacks."

Mr. Packwood, a 62-year-old Oregon Republican, has shifted strategy several times across three years of fighting the charges, at one point blaming alcohol abuse and lately reversing himself on his previous opposition to public hearings.

While the committee has not yet agreed to public hearings, the senator's office has begun leveling attacks on his accusers.

Yesterday, Charles G. Slepian, a lawyer and longtime Packwood supporter, held a news conference to complain about the behavior of the Ethics Committee staff. He told of taking depositions from witnesses who he said had offered relevant attacks on the accusers.

And as Mr. Slepian was holding his news conference, Mr. Packwood's office released deposition excerpts. No immediate comment was offered by the committee, whose three Republican and three Democratic senators concluded unanimously in May that Mr. Packwood had brought "discredit upon the United States Senate" through sexual misconduct, tampering with evidence and seeking help from lobbyists to get his wife a job.

The deposition excerpts released thus far challenge the accusers' general credibility.

Mr. Packwood's supporters contend that Ms. Hutton continued to work in the senator's campaigns despite the offense she attributes to him and that another accuser, Mary Heffernan, was once seen offering him a celebratory kiss at a gathering of women after he had helped defeat anti-abortion legislation.

The latter account was offered in a deposition by a woman who declined to be publicly identified.

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