By Stephen M. Silverman
July 24, 1998 12:00 AM

Clint Eastwood defended himself yesterday outside a federal courthouse in San Jose, Calif., where he’s fighting a charge that his trendy 31-room Mission Ranch hotel in Carmel is not accessible under the Federal Disabilities Act. Diane zum Brunnen, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, is suing Eastwood over her claim that a bathroom and other areas of the inn were not available to her. “We want the jurors to hold him accountable like everyone else, and because he’s a celebrity, they might want to give him the benefit of the doubt,” an attorney for the plaintiff told the Associated Press. At a press conference where he was reportedly surrounded by autograph-seekers, Eastwood, 70, maintained that the hotel has had a wheelchair-accessible bathroom since 1988 and refuted other claims by zum Brunnen, whose suit is over a visit in 1996. Asked why he simply didn’t settle with zum Brunnen (who reportedly asked for $500,000), Eastwood is quoted as saying, “You only settle when you’re wrong.” Jury members are expected to hear opening arguments in the case today.