Friend of Smith's accuser testifies woman said she was raped Prosecution witness attacked by defense

December 04, 1991|By John Donnelly | John Donnelly,Knight-Ridder News Service

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Under hostile cross-examination, the state's first key witness in the William Kennedy Smith rape trial yesterday acknowledged inconsistencies in her four statements to police and said she received $40,000 for two tabloid TV interviews.

And moments after her friend said she was raped, witness Anne Mercer testified, she apologized to Mr. Smith for the "circumstances" of their meeting.

Day 2 in the highly publicized rape case became the day Mr. Smith's lawyer, Roy Black, took the attack.

The prosecution also said yesterday for the first time that it will call Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., Mr. Smith's uncle, to the witness stand. Mr. Kennedy is expected to testify later this week.

Ms. Mercer, 33, came to the Kennedy estate to pick up the woman after she telephoned her.

When Ms. Mercer arrived at 4:30 a.m. March 30, she said the woman was standing at the top of an outdoor staircase. "She was literally shaking and she looked messed up," Ms. Mercer said. "Her makeup was running. She was hysterical, crying. She said she had been raped. She asked me to get her shoes. She kept repeating over and over again, 'Where are my shoes?' "

Under questioning from prosecutor Moira Lasch, Ms. Mercer testified that she walked into the Kennedy home and saw Mr. Smith in a darkened kitchen area.

"I said to him, 'How could you do this to my friend? Where are her shoes?' " Ms. Mercer said.

"How did he respond?" Ms. Lasch asked.

"No response. Just a shrug," she said.

Mr. Smith and Ms. Mercer walked together through the Kennedy compound and onto the beach, looking for the shoes. The shoes and the woman's pantyhose, however, had been in the woman's car in the Kennedy driveway all along, Ms. Mercer said.

Mr. Black began his cross-examination cordially. "Good afternoon," he said. Then he ripped into Ms. Mercer's story.

"You walked into the house, where the rapist is, right?" he asked.

"Yes," Ms. Mercer said.

"It was dark in there, right?"

"Yes."

"You met up with a man who your friend says is a rapist, right?"

"I was not afraid of him," Ms. Mercer said.

"That's not my question," Mr. Black said. "You asked a rapist to find her shoes, right?"

"Yes."

"In a dark house, right?"

"Yes."

Mr. Black kept at it: Onto a dark patio? It's dark out, right? Down a dark stairway? With a door at the bottom? On a dark beach? With a man who raped your friend?

Then: "Did you tell this man, 'I'm sorry we've met under these circumstances'?"

Ms. Mercer protested. Mr. Black persisted. Ms. Lasch objected that Mr. Black was being argumentative, but Judge Mary Lupo directed Ms. Mercer to respond.

"Yes," she said.

Ms. Mercer said she had received $40,000 from "A Current Affair" for two interviews. She said she used some of the money to spend 11 days in Mexico with her boyfriend.

Mr. Black suggested that she tailored her story to intrigue TV producers after "you realized you could cash in on the Kennedy name."

"No, I did not," she snapped.

She said "A Current Affair" had offered her $150,000 to tell her story before her police statements were made public. She said she also received offers of $100,000 from the Globe newspaper and $50,000 plus royalties from the National Enquirer. She said the accuser asked her to wait a while before telling her story, however.

"And as time passed, you found the price was going down?" asked Mr. Black.

"Yes," said Ms. Mercer.

"And that's when you struck your deal with "A Current Affair?" he asked. "Yes," she said.

Before Ms. Mercer agreed to the interview, she said she talked to the woman, a 30-year-old single mother from Jupiter.

On the second day of his trial, more members of Mr. Smith's family turned up to watch, and spectators crowded the hallway outside the courtroom.

As Mr. Smith walked out of the courtroom with his aunts, Ethel Kennedy and Eunice Shriver, the crowd applauded, and Matilda Omana, 59, of West Palm Beach, kissed him on the cheek.

"We're praying for you," she told a slightly embarrassed Mr. Smith.

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