Judge Not, Lest Ye Be . . .

Salacious, Titillating, Irresistibly hot? Sure, other editors in this town and around the nation passed up the story. The New York Times--beneath us. New York Newsday--oops, we went belly up two weeks too soon. The networks--sorry, we're too busy being taken over. But this time those wacky Manhattan tabloids got it right. Here was the story of Kimba Wood--the woman who almost became Bill Clinton's attorney general until being Nannygated, the federal judge who sent Michael Mi]ken off to the pokey, the most beautiful jurist in the nation with a cute first name, too-in the middle of a sex scandal. This was important stuff and readers would be spared no detail. After all, she had been a Playboy bunny for a few days while a student in London.

Apparently, she's the "other woman" in a pathogenic divorce case involving one Frank Richardson 3d, a "studly" financier worth $157 million, and Nancy Richardson, a blonde socialite Frank says has six "mental-health professionals" and an annual clothing allowance of $350,000. Frank was seeing Kimba, which is no great story even if Kimba's now separated husband is Michael Kramer, the Time magazine columnist. Trouble is, at least for Kimba, Frank liked to keep a diary. Worse, Nancy found it and brought it to court as evidence of adultery. Wouldn't you know it, the diary somehow made its way into the New York Daily News, which proclaimed, WOOD BURNIN' IN HIS DIARIES; Disney's acquisition of ABC was also mentioned in the paper that day. Not to be bested, the New York Post later announced, TAKE THAT, JUDGE KIMBA! explaining that Nancy had found a "new beau"-one Michael Thomas, novelist and columnist for the New York Observer, a weekly publication by journalists about journalists and read only by journalists who mostly get it for nothing.

At the weekend, the Post was far out front in what it called the "Love Judge Scandal," not that Wood was accused of doing anything wrong, other than committing adultery, which hasn't been prosecuted much in New York since the Chester Arthur administration. Frank, the paper reported, may once have had an affair with Jackie Onassis, though no diaries of that liaison had yet been discovered. "Former First Lady was 'mad for' Romeo tycoon," said the Post. The judge had nothing to do with them, but after all, Frank was still "Kimba's Man."

Now, back to those 1995 diary entries, which had New York legal circles and literary agents all abuzz, and Imus doing Harlequin versions of it on the radio. In the full bloom of springtime, here's Frank on Kimba: "She leaned toward me beaming . . . the black hair around her pearl white skin, the misty green eyes." Then there was that afternoon at her country estate (valued at $1.7 million by The Boston Herald, $860,000 by the Post): it was "as beautiful an eight hours as I have ever spent in my life . . . We had lunch, built a fire, put on music." Oh, please stop! No, please continue. "She is absolutely wonderful, very intelligent, a complete woman and person and able to give love wonderfully and freely." And the lunch at Lutece: "When I first took her head and kissed her lips . . . how she stiffened and gave slowly, but inexorably." Lucky thing Frank didn't have an editor.

Kimba was out of the country last week and offering no comment. But Frank's attorney, Stanley Arkin, said the diary was nothing more than "the romantic musings of a bygone era. There is nothing in there that suggests they had sex." Kramer returned a reporter's call, but declined to answer questions. Nancy's lawyer denied reports he had leaked the diary to the News; Nancy herself told the Post that she bore no ill will toward the judge and complained that she and her three children couldn't even go to the beach due to the media frenzy.

Which now includes, among others, The Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post. NEWSWEEK is shocked--shocked--that the respectable press would even go near this story.