William Kennedy Smith showed up at his arraignment Friday to look the judge in the eye and personally plead innocent to raping a woman at his family's estate. "I'm not guilty, your honor," said Smith as he faced Circuit Judge Mary Lupo. She accepted his plea on second-degree sexual battery and misdemeanor battery charges and set an Aug. 5 trial date.
Florida law didn't require Smith to be present for his arraignment, but he told reporters he flew in from his Washington home because "obviously, this trial is the most important thing in my life."
"It was important for me to come down and look the judge in the eye and tell her I'm not guilty. And I did that," said the 30-year-old nephew of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. He was accompanied by his brother, New York lawyer Stephen Smith.
David Roth, an attorney for the 29-year-old woman who reported Smith assaulted her at the Kennedy estate March 30, said she wouldn't comment on the plea.
Smith appeared to listen attentively during a 25-minute court session dominated by debate between his Miami attorney, Mark Schnapp, and lead prosecutor Moira Lasch on various motions.
Schnapp said Smith's attorneys will seek dismissal of the case, but needed more time to prepare their motion.
Lupo gave them until June 14 and set a June 19 hearing for pending motions. She then will hear defense arguments for a modified gag order to halt what Smith's attorneys say are prejudicial and one-sided commentary by police and prosecutors that has damaged his right to a fair trial.