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    Governator Terminates Groping Suit

    Hasta la vista, baby.

    California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has reached an amicable settlement in a libel lawsuit brought by a former British late-night TV personality who accused the onetime Predator star of groping her during an interview.

    Anna Richardson filed her suit in London's High Court in May 2004. She claimed that Schwarzenegger directed two of his minions to defame her after she offered a detailed account of the alleged incident to the Los Angeles Times during his 2003 run for governor.

    "The parties are content to put this matter behind them and are pleased that this legal dispute has now been settled," read a terse statement issued jointly in London by lawyers representing both sides, adding that the resolution was to "all parties' satisfaction."

    Schwarzenegger's U.S.-based personal attorney, Martin Singer, declined to comment Monday. Attempts to reach Richardson were not successful.

    The aging action hero was doing publicity rounds for the movie The 6th Day when he went on Richardson's late-night talk show in London in December 2000. The host, then 29, claimed her muscle-bound guest pulled her onto his knee, circled her left nipple with his finger and he asked her if her breasts were real.

    She later related her story to Premiere magazine, which printed an exposé titled "Arnold the Barbarian" asserting the Conan star had a habit of groping women on movie sets and had affairs behind the back of wife Maria Shriver.

    Such allegations dogged Schwarzenegger in the run-up to the 2003 election. The Times ran a lengthy report detailing the allegations of Richardson and several other women, all of whom claimed they were inappropriately fondled by the Running Man. Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly quoted Schwarzenegger referring to scene in T3 by saying: "How many times do you get away with this--to take a woman, grab her upside down, and bury her face in a toilet bowl?"

    The British TV host decided to sue Schwarzenegger for libel when two of his top advisers, Sean Walsh and Sheryl Main, defended their candidate, saying it was Richardson who put the moves on Arnold and not the other way around. The suit was filed in Britain, where it's much easier than the States for a claimant to receive a favorable verdict because the onus of proof is on the defendant.

    Indeed, former stuntwoman Rhonda Miller filed her own libel suit against Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles, claiming his underlings smeared her by telling reporters she had a history of drug addiction and prostitution. But a judge tossed out the lawsuit in July 2004, saying Miller failed to show "convincing evidence" to substantiate her case.

    Although Schwarzenegger's camp vehemently denied the groping allegations, he did offer an apology of sorts to defuse the controversy before the election. Without getting into specifics, he acknowledged that he "behaved badly sometimes" and acted in ways that "were not right, which I thought were playful, but now I recognize that I have offended some people." He also promised to hire a private investigator to probe the claims.

    The mea culpa seemed to assuage voters, who elected him to replace recalled California Governor Gray Davis in October 2003. (The promised investigation was quickly scuttled.)

    The settlement, which was announced late Friday, saves Schwarzenegger from reliving the allegations at a trial while he's running for reelection this fall.

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