Woman sues Kennedy nephew in alleged sex assault

Smith was acquitted in '91 on rape, battery charges

The Nation

August 27, 2004|By Gina Kim and Mickey Ciokajlo | Gina Kim and Mickey Ciokajlo,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

CHICAGO - William Kennedy Smith, who with a nation watching was acquitted of rape and battery in 1991 by a Florida jury, was accused in a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday of sexually assaulting a woman in Chicago five years ago.

The woman, who according to the lawsuit said she worked as his personal assistant, alleged that Smith forced her into his Chicago residence after a night of drinking with co-workers and assaulted her.

The woman, Audra Soulias, filed the lawsuit under her name in Cook County Circuit Court and seeks damages in excess of $50,000.

Her attorney, Kevin O'Reilly, said Soulias was afraid to go to the police after the incident.

"She thought that Dr. Smith was too powerful and strong and would be able to discredit her very easily," O'Reilly told the Associated Press. "She was afraid it would ruin her life."

O'Reilly insisted the case was not about money and said the only reason she is seeking at least $50,000 is because that is the minimum amount required for a jury trial. Smith said Soulias had demanded $3 million; O'Reilly denied that.

Smith, 43, the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, said his family and personal history made him a target for "outrageous" allegations. And the woman acknowledged having had a relationship with Smith some months after the alleged assault.

A preliminary search did not turn up any police records related to the alleged incident, according to Chicago police.

Soulias alleges in the lawsuit that she met separately with two female co-workers after the incident to tell them what had happened. One of the co-workers, the lawsuit said, told Soulias she also had been sexually harassed by Smith. The three women agreed that Smith would use his "wealth and connections" to escape legal responsibility.

According to the lawsuit, Soulias worked for Smith at a nonprofit center he founded to help the disabled in war-torn countries.

In fall 2003, the lawsuit alleges, two women who worked at the center filed sexual harassment charges against Smith with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Dr. Henry B. Betts, the center's founding chairman, said that board members had investigated the allegations and determined that they were unfounded.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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