Grand jury hears Kennedy in Fla. obstruction probe

August 31, 1991|By New York Times News Service

MIAMI -- Sen. Edward M. Kennedy testified yesterday before a Palm Beach County grand jury considering evidence of possible obstruction of justice during the investigation of rape charges against his nephew, William K. Smith.

In remarks to reporters after an 80-minute court appearance yesterday morning, Mr. Kennedy said that he was responding to a subpoena: "We were invited down here to participate in this process, and we welcome the opportunity to do so."

Afterward, Mr. Kennedy left the courthouse with a private investigator who has been aiding Mr. Smith's lawyers.

Mr. Kennedy's press secretary, Paul Donovan, said that the senator "answered all of the questions of the grand jury" and "is cooperating in every way possible with the Palm Beach authorities." He emphasized that the grand jury is not contemplating any charges against Mr. Kennedy.

"When he was asked to appear before the grand jury, the prosecutor's office in Palm Beach specifically notified Senator Kennedy that his appearance was merely as a witness, not as a target or a subject of this investigation," Mr. Donovan said in a statement.

Mr. Smith, a 30-year-old medical school graduate, is to go on trial in West Palm Beach early next year on charges that he raped a 30-year-old Florida woman at the Kennedy family's seaside estate on March 30. He has pleaded not guilty.

The authorities in Palm Beach have complained that their initial investigation of the rape allegation against Mr. Smith was hampered by William Barry, a New York security consultant and former FBI agent who is a close friend of the Kennedy family. Jack Freese of the Palm Beach County state's attorney's office acknowledged yesterday that Mr. Barry was a target of the probe of possible obstruction of justice.

The Palm Beach police chief, Joseph L. Terlizzese, has said he believes that Mr. Barry "deliberately misled" detectives about the whereabouts that day of Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Smith.

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