Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

William Kennedy Smith

Sexual Harassment Allegations

William Kennedy Smith
William Kennedy Smith

Over the years, William attracted little media attention, except for his arrest in a bar brawl in October 1993 and rumors that he planned to run for Congress in 2001, which never panned out. A vast majority of the public didn't realized that William had become a medical doctor and during the mid to late 1990's founded and managed two Chicago-based organizations known as Physicians Against Land Mines (PALM) and Center for International Rehabilitation (CIR). In fact, it was only brought to the public's attention in August 2004, when several women with whom William worked filed complaints of sexual harassment against him with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is a mounting scandal that could reach epic proportions.

Cook County Courthouse
Cook County Courthouse

According to court documents filed in Cook County Circuit Court, Audra Soulias, William's personal assistant at CIR, claimed that in January 1999 she went out to eat on her birthday with two co-workers and one of their boyfriends. During their dinner, William, her boss, showed up unexpectedly. Soulias said that William bought rounds of drinks for everyone at the table and then joined them, without being invited, at a local bar to continue the birthday celebration.

At approximately 2 a.m., Soulias alleged that when she caught a cab to go home, William jumped in and instructed the driver to go to his home. She further alleged that he physically grabbed her out of the cab, pulled her into his house and, despite her cries and pleas to stop, sexually assaulted her with his fingers. Soulias claimed that when she tried to leave, William grabbed her forcefully and pulled her onto the bed, although she was eventually able to shake lose and escape from him and the house.

Audra Soulias
Audra Soulias

Soulias said that she told her co-workers about the alleged rape and even played for them a voicemail message left by William the following morning, in which he apologized for his behavior and claimed that he had "a problem." However, on the advice of her friends, Soulias didn't report the incident to the police because she was intimidated by his power, position and wealth, Megan Reichgott suggested in a August 26, 2004 AP Online article. Interestingly, Soulias did admit that several months after the incident she had a brief relationship with William, a fact that may hinder her if the case were to go to trial.

Reichgott quoted Soulias' attorney, Kevin O'Reilly, stating that she "ultimately decided to file the civil lawsuit because she wanted to stop an alleged pattern of harassment." One of her co-workers who had gone out with her for dinner on the night of the alleged attack also filed a complaint on two separate occasions with the EEOC in 2003 for sexual harassment and "unwanted sexual advances" allegedly made by William. That same year, another employee at CIR also filed charges with the EEOC alleging that William sexually harassed her during her employment.

Attorney Kevin O'Reilly
Attorney Kevin O'Reilly

William made a statement to the press stating that the accusations against him were "outrageous, untrue and without merit," Reichgott reported. According to an August 31, 2004 CNN.com article, William claimed that the sexual encounters they had were, "in no way forced or coerced" but strictly consensual. The article further quoted William's attorney, Dan Webb, who said that a day before the lawsuit was filed, Soulias' attorney demanded $3.3 million in restitution and threatened lawsuit if the money wasn't immediately received.

The amount of money Webb claimed was demanded by Soulias' lawyers was a far cry from what she was asking for in the suit, which was $50,000 in damages. O'Reilly said that the suit was not about the money but about putting a stop to William's behavior, Reichgott reported. Soulias was quoted in an August 27, 2004 Associated Press article saying that she was "putting William Kennedy Smith on notice. You will not victimize another woman and be able to keep it silent if I can help it!"

Realizing that he had a long battle ahead of him and wanting to protect the organization he founded, William resigned from his position at CIR shortly after the allegations became public, CNN.com reported. A trial date has not yet been set. One thing is for sure, William won't be able to escape the media's attention as he managed to do over the last decade.

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