In Palm Beach, Smith surrenders to police

May 12, 1991|By Ellen Uzelac | Ellen Uzelac,Sun Staff Correspondent

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Accompanied by his mother, William Kennedy Smith surrendered to police yesterday to face charges that he assaulted and raped a Florida woman Easter weekend.

Steadfastly maintaining his innocence, Mr. Smith, 30, a member of America's best-known political family, insisted to reporters here yesterday that the alleged victim had concocted her story about a rape.

He called the allegation an "outrageous lie" and said it represented an attack on him and his family.

Mr. Smith said he looked forward to a trial, vowing, "The truth will come out."

On Thursday, following an intensive, six-week police investigation, the Palm Beach County prosecutor filed charges of second-degree sexual battery and battery against Mr. Smith. Florida law classifies rape as sexual battery.

Police had given Mr. Smith, the nephew of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., until early next week to surrender. He and his mother, Jean Kennedy Smith, were here for just a few hours yesterday before returning to Washington, D.C., where Mr. Smith is a fourth-year student at Georgetown University's medical school.

"It seems unbelievable to me," said Mrs. Smith, who is Senator Kennedy's sister. "Anyone who knows Willie knows this to be totally untrue."

Upon arriving here yesterday, mother and son entered the pale-pink police headquarters building, encircled by a crush of reporters. There, Mr. Smith was fingerprinted and photographed.

Not far from police headquarters in this oceanside resort is the Kennedy mansion, where a 29-year-old woman claims Mr. Smith tackled and raped her March 30, calling her a "bitch" when she resisted.

After he was booked, Mr. Smith was driven in an unmarked police cruiser to the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Complex in neighboring West Palm Beach, where he was freed after posting $10,000 bond -- the customary amount set for out-of-state residents charged with a second-degree felony.

Arraignment was scheduled for June 14. Mr. Smith will not be required to appear in court at that hearing.

In a nine-page police affidavit made public last week, the alleged victim said Mr. Smith raped her near the swimming pool on the Kennedy estate, then told her that no one would believe her if she said she had been sexually assaulted.

The woman, the stepdaughter of a Midwest industrialist, has been publicly identified by the supermarket tabloid The Globe, as well as by the more respected New York Times, NBC News and several other publications. Normally, it is the practice of media in the United States not to identify alleged victims of rape, and it has been against the law to do so in Florida since 1911.

On Thursday, Florida prosecutors charged the Globe, the first U.S. media organization to identify the woman, with unlawfully publishing the name of an alleged rape victim.

The supervisor of Palm Beach County's sexual assault program told the Palm Beach Post yesterday that the number of women seeking rape examinations in the county had dropped dramatically since publication of the alleged victim's name. Kris Karna, the supervisor, said she blames the drop on new fears of public disclosure.

Meanwhile, police here say they are continuing to investigate whether Senator Kennedy and his nephew deliberately left Palm Beach before they could be questioned early in the probe. Authorities have said they are considering filing obstruction-of-justice charges against the two.

Senator Kennedy, who was at the oceanside estate when the alleged rape occurred, told reporters at a news conference Friday that he never tried to mislead police.

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