Potential accuser hiding in Kennedy-estate case


JUPITER, Fla. -- A Jupiter woman secluded herself in her home yesterday while nearly two dozen reporters stood vigil outside, believing her to be the person who told police she was raped at the Kennedy family's seaside mansion in Palm Beach, Fla.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, would not answer her door and appeared outside only briefly.

Members of the Kennedy clan, meanwhile, continued to distance themselves from the alleged Easter weekend sexual assault.

"I think all the members of the Kennedy family are obviously distressed by the reports that have come out of Florida over a period of the past few days," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. "I think all of us are hopeful that all of the parties will be treated fairly and [that] there will be a full and complete investigation."

Patrick Kennedy, 24, a state legislator in Rhode Island, said that he had been in Palm Beach over the weekend but that he had nothing to do with the incident and that he didn't think the allegations would damage the Kennedy family image.

"People know who I am," said Mr. Kennedy, one of Senator Kennedy's sons. "People know my family. Eventually, the full story will be known."

He said he had not been interviewed by Palm Beach police.

A 30-year-old woman told police she was raped at the Kennedy estate between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. Saturday. A Palm Beach police detective interviewed the woman at Humana Hospital of the Palm Beaches at 2:30 p.m. the same day.

The alleged attack came after a visit to a nightspot, Au Bar, that included the senator, his son and William Kennedy Smith, 30, a medical student at Georgetown University. Mr. Smith is the son of Jean Kennedy Smith, the senator's sister.

["Any suggestion that I was involved in any offense is erroneous," Mr. Smith said late yesterday in a statement, the Associated Press reported.

["The news reports circulating about events last weekend at the Kennedy family residence in Palm Beach, Fla., are inaccurate and have unfairly embarrassed my uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and my cousin, Patrick Kennedy," Mr. Smith said. "I make this statement in the hopes that it will help stem the tide of unwarranted suspicions."]

Several club-goers said John F. Kennedy Jr. also was in the party at Au Bar. "He kept a low profile, but he was here for the weekend," said a socialite who asked not to be identified.

Mr. Kennedy, 29, an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, was unavailable for comment.

People who saw the Kennedy party at the nightspot said they were in their usual Palm Beach form: relaxed, merry and surrounded by an entourage of jet-setters.

Palm Beach police have neither made an arrest nor confirmed that an assault even took place.

"I expect that a good many more facts and details will emerge over the period of these next few days," the senator said.

"We had a weekend down there with my sister and my son and a traditional Easter weekend," he said. "And I'm not going to go into details of the time that I was down there."

Palm Beach Police Chief Joseph Terlizzese said that the woman who reported the rape identified her assailant and that police went to the compound to question the man Saturday afternoon, but he was gone.

The resort town has taken on a circus atmosphere as reporters desperate for information argued with police, offered money for interviews and even questioned each other.

Reporters from news organizations including the Washington Post, National Enquirer, Boston Herald and the television program "Hard Copy" waited for hours outside the woman's home in Jupiter yesterday, befriended by neighbors who offered them coffee and bagels. The neighbors said the woman moved to the upscale community of homes, ranging in price from $169,000 to $350,000, about two years ago with an infant.

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