William Kennedy Smith, telling his side of the story publicly for the first time since being charged with rape seven months ago, suggested that he is the true victim in the case and that his accuser is a "real nut" who is punishing him for forgetting her name during sex.
Prosecutors say Smith, 31, met the woman in a Palm Beach bar in March and and accompanied her to the Kennedy estate, where he attacked her. But Smith countered that the 30-year-old Jupiter, Fla., woman picked him up at the bar, kissed and fondled him on the beach near the family compound and had sex with him on the lawn.
While the two were embracing, he said, "I called her Cathy," a wrong name. "The minute I said it, I knew that it was a mistake. I just hoped she didn't hear it," Smith testified as the defense wrapped up its case. "She sort of snapped. She got very, very upset and told me to get the hell off of her. She hit me with her hand."
Prosecutors chipped away at Smith for more than four hours yesterday but hardly appeared to dent his testimony, which lawyers and other analysts said was at least as compelling as his accuser's account last week.
Lead prosecutor Moira Lasch also never found an opening to introduce statements by three other women who say Smith raped or assaulted them, and Judge Mary Lupo repeatedly warned her yesterday that questioning the character of various principals could lead to a mistrial.
Closing arguments in the case were expected today. Analysts suggested that jurors, who could begin deliberations by the afternoon, would base their verdict not on the stream of testimony by technical experts but on whom they believe -- Smith or his accuser.
Introducing himself as William Smith -- he omitted his famous middle name -- the 6-foot, 2-inch defendant described how he met his accuser one night in March at Au Bar, a fashionable nightspot. He said the woman was brushing against him and seemed anxious to meet him, apparently because she recognized his uncle, the senator, who along with his son Patrick had accompanied him to the bar.
Smith and the woman danced "a few slow dances where we were kissing" and, when the bar closed and he realized that his uncle and Patrick had left, Smith said he accepted the offer from the woman for a ride home in the early morning hours of March 30.
She has testified that she accidentally bumped into Smith at the bar, that she did not know who he was, that she showed no sexual interest in him initially and agreed to a request he made for a ride home.
The details of Smith's account of what happened once they got to the Kennedy compound were even more at odds with those given by his accuser.
As they sat by the pool, the woman addressed Smith as "Michael," he testified, and asked to see some identification. His reaction, he recalled, was that "she had me confused with someone or she was disoriented."
Smith said he mistakenly called her Cathy after they had had sex on the lawn. Smith said the woman then "marched off" in a huff, while he "lay there and let out a groan," then went for a swim in the pool, got dressed and went into his house to "see if she was still there."
He said he found her in the kitchen and told her not to worry about their having had sex without birth control because he had been "very careful" to withdraw. Then, according to him, she said, "You're the one who better worry: You raped me, Michael."