Officer names Senator Kennedy's nephew as suspect in alleged Florida rape

April 05, 1991|By Roberto Suro | Roberto Suro,New York Times News Service

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A police captain identified yesterday the suspect in the alleged rape of a young woman at the Kennedy family compound as William Kennedy Smith, 30, a nephew of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

The identification came as Capt. Brian Roche, chief of detectives of the Palm Beach Police Department, gave testimony in a lawsuit brought by two local newspapers and a television station seeking release of police records in the case.

Captain Roche was complaining that media coverage of the case had hindered the department's efforts to reach a positive identification of the suspect, when he unexpectedly remarked, "His picture is in the newspaper today. That hurts us."

His remark came after a lawyer for the media organizations mentioned an article in yesterday's Palm Beach Post that quoted an unidentified source as saying Mr. Smith was listed as the suspect in police documents. The front-page article was accompanied by a photograph of Mr.Smith, a medical student at Georgetown University in Washington.

"We have a case of the cat being out of the bag," said the lawyer, Tom Julin. Judge Richard L. Oftedal of Circuit Court said he would rule on the media request today.

A spokeswoman for Senator Kennedy in Washington, Lisa Young, said he had no immediate comment on the police captain's statement.

For five days the police have been investigating the allegations by a 29-year-old woman who says she met Senator Kennedy, his son Patrick and Mr. Smith at a nightclub,that she was invited to the Kennedy compound and that she was raped there about 4 a.m. Saturday.

So far, no charges have been filed in the case, and even with yesterday's revelation no suspect has been formally accused.

At the hearing, Captain Roche said that "with the attention thi case is getting, we are treating it differently," and he complained that the department had been "inundated with worldwide media" because of the Kennedy family's involvement.

Another point of difficulty in the investigation emerged in yesterday'stestimony when Captain Roche acknowledged that the police had yet to interview Mr. Smith and potentially important witnesses.

"I don't know what kind of resistance we are going to get," he said.

In fact, the Palm Beach police have yet to get a version of the night's events from any members of the Kennedy family.

According to Joseph L. Terlizzese, the chief of the Palm Beach Police Department, the woman identified the three Kennedy men as the people she met at Au Bar and further identified an assailant by name.

However, Senator Kennedy, in a television interview Wednesday, said no members of his family had been questioned by police on this case.

Police have not released the name of the woman. But in this small, exclusive community, many people now assume they know who she is.

The woman who filed the rape charge is from a well-to-do family in nearby Jupiter, Fla., but is not considered rich or well-connected by Palm Beach standards. Several of her friends said yesterday that she has gone into seclusion since the incident.

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