'Violent' attacks by Smith cited 3 women accuse Kennedy nephew

July 24, 1991|By Ellen Uzelac

A former friend of the Kennedy family who says she was sexually assaulted by William Kennedy Smith described the Florida rape suspect in a deposition released yesterday as a "sicko" who tried twice to rape her in one night.

Two other women, former classmates of his, said in depositions that they, too, were attacked by the 30-year-old Mr. Smith, who faces trial in West Palm Beach, Fla., next month on charges of raping a woman at the seaside Kennedy compound there March 30.

A 27-year-old woman who dated a cousin of Mr. Smith's, Matthew Maxwell Kennedy, for several years said Mr. Kennedy told her recently that "Willie had psychological problems and that he should get some help" in dealing with his feelings about women.

Mr. Kennedy also said that it "sounds like Willie has a really big problem," the woman said, adding that Mr. Kennedy knew of another woman who also had been attacked by his cousin.

The woman said that in 1983, Mr. Smith twice assaulted her -- jumping on top of her, fondling her breasts and genitals and kissing her -- at his family home in Manhattan, where he had invited her to stay in a guest bedroom following a party at which the two had met that night.

The woman said that she told Mr. Kennedy, then her boyfriend, about the assaults the next day but that Mr. Smith had already called him to apologize for making "a pass" at her. In her deposition, she described the alleged attack as "violent," "aggressive" and "completely unwanted."

She said she never reported the alleged assault because "I thought that nobody would believe me . . . considering . . . the people involved." The other women echoed that.

Mr. Smith, a nephew of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., was never charged with criminal conduct in connection with the three alleged incidents. He has pleaded not guilty to the rape charge in Florida.

The second woman whose deposition was released yesterday, a Washington, D.C., physician, said Mr. Smith tackled and kissed her at his home in the Georgetown section of Washington in 1988. "I was frightened," she said. "I thought that if I didn't somehow talk this fellow out of it that I was going to be raped."

The third woman, 26, said in her deposition that Mr. Smith sexually assaulted her in 1988 when she went home with him after a party. She said that she was drunk and that Mr. Smith removed her clothes and raped her.

"I really thought he would hurt me and I realized . . . I have to go along with this," she said. "I can't fight at this point. . . . I could see it in his face. He was . . . ferocious . . . [and had an] almost animal-like kind of look to him."

Moira Lasch, assistant state's attorney for Palm Beach County, said in court documents released Monday that she intends to ask the three women to testify under special rules that allow a defendant's previous "crimes, wrongs or acts" to be disclosed during the trial.

It will be up to Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Mary Lupo to decide whether the jury will be permitted to hear the testimony, which could change the complexion of the case dramatically. The case, which has made headlines around the world, is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 5.

"If I was the jury, I sure as hell would be impressed," said Yale Kamisar, a law professor at the University of Michigan. "Once other rapes or attempted rapes come into evidence, I would believe the woman. I would not believe the man. It would be devastating to the defense."

Under Florida statutes, past crimes or wrongs cannot be admitted simply to prove bad character. Rather, they must be relevant to prove such things as a pattern of behavior, intent or identity.

The three women all said Mr. Smith assaulted them after inviting them to his home following parties. All said they were "jumped" or "tackled." Two of the women said Mr. Smith told them afterward that he hadn't really attacked them but had only made passes at them.

In the Florida case, the alleged victim said Mr. Smith invited her to the Kennedy compound after meeting her earlier that night at a trendy nightspot. She, too, said she was tackled before being raped. Later, the woman said, Mr. Smith told her no one would believe her if she said she had been raped.

"Three other incidents in recent years -- that certainly bears relevance on who's telling the truth in this case," Mr. Kamisar said.

But Joseph Beeler, a Miami criminal defense attorney, called the release of the depositions on the eve of the trial "appalling" and accused Ms. Lasch of "looking for a victory at all costs." Under Florida law, Ms. Lasch could have kept the women's allegations private and under court seal until the judge decided whether to permit their testimony.

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