CHICAGO – The woman accusing William Kennedy Smith (search ) of sexually assaulting her five years ago says her goal is to stop his alleged behavior — not collect money.
Audra Soulias (search ), 28, filed a civil lawsuit against Smith, 43, claiming he bought her drinks while she was celebrating her birthday in January 1999 and later took her to his house, dragged her upstairs and assaulted her.
"This is not about money. I do not wish to see one more woman victimized by this individual," Soulias said at a news conference Thursday. "Enough is enough."
Smith, who was cleared of rape charges in Florida in 1991, said Soulias demanded a $3 million payoff in exchange for not going to court. He said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed Wednesday that "family and personal history have made me unusually vulnerable to these kinds of charges."
In a statement following his accuser's new conference, Smith accused Soulias' lawyer of presenting "baseless claims in the most sensationalistic manner. While I did date Ms. Soulias for several months in 1999, the accusations being made are absolutely false and misleading."
Soulias attorney Kevin E. O'Reilly acknowledged that Soulias had continued to work for Smith until June 1999 and during that time had consensual sex with him on a number of occasions. He declined to comment on whether he had asked Smith for $3 million before filing the lawsuit, saying he had given his word not to discuss any talks between the two sides.
O'Reilly said Soulias, who once worked for Smith as a personal assistant, never went to the police about the alleged incident. Private investigator Paul Ciolino, who is working for Soulias, said that she told friends and others her story, but they warned her not to file a lawsuit.
"I've repeatedly been warned by everyone I've sought guidance from not to do this," Soulias said. "I've been warned that I, my family and anyone affiliated with this case will be harassed, ruined and destroyed for bringing these allegations to light."
She said she would not have filed the suit had Smith not telephoned her in January and left voicemails, which she believed were intimidating. She said the messages came after she told her story to an investigator who had been retained by the board of Smith's Center for International Rehabilitation, which helps victims of land mines.
"On Jan. 16, 1999, my innocence was involuntarily taken from me by someone I trusted and respected," Soulias said. "It was taken from me in a manner that will haunt me to the day I die."
O'Reilly described the January 1999 incident as an assault that stopped short of sexual intercourse. He said that until then Soulias had lived with her family and had never had a boyfriend or any sexual experience.
In 1991, a jury in West Palm Beach, Fla., acquitted Smith of sexual assault and battery on a 30-year-old woman he met in a nightclub. He said his sexual relations with the woman, Patricia Bowman, had been consensual.
According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Soulias said Smith called her the morning after the incident and left apologetic voicemails. Soulias was accompanied at Thursday's news conference by her younger sister, Melissa, who said that she had heard the voicemails. O'Reilly said the voicemails had not been preserved.
The lawsuit asks for at least $50,000 in damages, the minimum that such a court action must demand under Illinois law.