William Kennedy Smith plans to contest a former worker's rape accusations

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated August 31, 2004 08:00 AM

William Kennedy Smith has resigned as chairman and president of the humanitarian group he founded to fight a sexual assault lawsuit filed by his former personal assistant.

“I am simply doing everything I can to protect the organization I love,” Smith, a nephew of Sen. Edward Kennedy, said in his first public appearance since Audra Soulias filed a civil lawsuit last week alleging he raped her five years ago.

Smith, 43, dismissed the accusation that he assaulted Soulias after a drunken birthday bash for her, and noted that friends expressed concern that he would appear guilty by resigning from the Chicago-based Center for International Rehabilitation, which helps victims of land mines.

Soulias’s attorney says his client and Smith had consensual sex after the alleged attack but that she felt pressured into it by her boss.

“It was in no way forced or coerced,” said Smith, reports the Associated Press. “I cannot dignify her allegations by repeating them, even to deny them, so all I can say is that they are false.”

Soulias, 28, seeks at least $50,000 in damages, the minimum that her court action must demand under Illinois law.

“The damage has been done, but the truth will be sorted out,” said Smith, a medical doctor who was cleared of rape charges in Florida in 1991. He did not take questions and left immediately after reading his statement.