The prosecutor in the Palm Beach rape case is alleging that William Kennedy Smith raped a woman in Washington three years ago and attempted to rape two other women in recent years.
While sources say no charges were filed in the earlier cases, lead prosecutor Moira Lasch notified Smith's lawyers yesterday that she plans to call the women to testify in the pending case, in which Smith is charged with raping a 30-year-old Florida woman. Before such testimony could be admitted, however, the judge in the Palm Beach County case would have to determine whether the alleged earlier assaults are part of a pattern of behavior by Smith.
Lasch's filing yesterday was made under what is called the "Williams Rule," which allows evidence about a defendant's previous activity to be introduced in a new case if it can be shown the earlier activity was part of a pattern of behavior.
Smith has denied any wrongdoing in the Palm Beach case. His lawyers, who are under a court gag order, declined to comment on yesterday's prosecution filing. A spokesman for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Smith's uncle, said last night that "Senator Kennedy continues to believe that when this case is decided Willie will be found innocent."
Yesterday's statements, outlined in a two-page document that Lasch filed with the Palm Beach County Circuit Court, add a new twist to the highly publicized Florida case in which Smith is charged with sexual battery, Florida's equivalent of rape, and battery. The charges stem from his alleged attack on the Florida woman at the Kennedy family compound on Easter weekend.
While some acquaintances had suggested a darker side to Smith, most have described the charges against him in Florida as out of character for the 30-year-old, who recently graduated from Georgetown Medical School. And while Palm Beach police said early in their probe that they were investigating rumors of earlier sexual assaults, they were believed to have come up empty-handed.
The new document says, however, that Smith "did commit a sexual battery" against a woman in Washington "between May 1, 1988 and June 30, 1988."
The prosecution document also charges that between April 1 and June 30, 1988, Smith "did unlawfully attempt to commit a sexual battery" against another woman in Washington "by grabbing" her, "throwing her down and forcibly restraining her . . . ."
And in 1983 Smith attempted a sexual battery against a third woman, the document says, that time in New York. In that case, it adds, he tackled the woman, "forcibly restraining her and fondling her . . . ."
None of the women could be reached for comment last night. Eric Seiff, a Manhattan lawyer for the New York woman, said neither he nor his client "want to talk publicly" about the alleged attack in 1983. "The place for this case to be tried is in court," he added, alluding to the Florida trial due to begin Aug. 5.