Three Real Florida Society Scandals in Honor of Palm Royale

Smith met Bowman at a local bar during a visit he made Easter weekend with his senator uncle Ted and cousin Patrick Kennedy. Smith invited Bowman back to the estate, with its 11-bedroom house, swimming pool, tennis court, and 200 feet of beachfront property. While there, Bowman claimed that Smith chased her across the grounds, tackled her, pinned her, pulled up her dress, and raped her. Bowman passed two polygraph tests on her statements to police and had bruises on her legs, shoulders, and arms. 

Dominick Dunne covered the trial for this magazine, reporting how the Kennedy family came out en masse to support Smith: “They gave an unprecedented display of solidarity combined with stardom, waving at the press, smiling at the photographers, any one of them capable at any moment of stepping in front of the bank of microphones and addressing the multitudes,” wrote Dunne. 

Smith was ultimately acquitted—not a surprise given his expensive defense lawyer Roy Black, his family clout, and this detail from Dunne: “From the moment on the first day of the trial when Judge Mary Lupo disallowed, without comment, the testimony of three other women—a doctor, a medical student, and a law student who at the time was the girlfriend of Smith’s cousin Matthew Maxwell Kennedy—who claimed they were sexually assaulted by Smith between 1983 and 1988, the die was cast. Only the speed with which the jury of six people selected to decide Smith’s fate arrived at their decision was a surprise: a mere seventy-seven minutes, including the time it took to pick a foreman.” (At the time, Smith, through Black, denied the three women’s allegations.)

(In a bizarre postscript, Black married one of the jurors who found Smith not guilty, Lea Black, in 1994. Black later became a member of The Real Housewives of Miami.)

Bowman later told Dunne, “It’s the acquittal that money can buy. [Smith’s team] had nine months to come up with their story…. He had five of my statements and everybody else’s statements. He had the forensic evidence. He had all kinds of resources, which they’ve already testified that they used. He had all this material with which to concoct a story. And that’s what he did…. Everything I couldn’t remember, because of rape-trauma syndrome, he could come up with something for. Everything that fit in with the forensic evidence, he found an answer for it.”

In 2015, Jerry Oppenheimer wrote in his book RFK Jr.: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the Dark Side of the Dream that JFK Jr. had been blackmailed into attending the trial to support his cousin. James Ridgway de Szigethy, an acquaintance of JFK Jr., told Congress that he recalled his friend saying that the family “‘should have done something about Willie years ago when he first started doing this,’ meaning…raping women.” De Szigethy said that JFK Jr. “told me he did not want to [support his cousin at trial] and his mother did not want him to, either. I suggested that he not do it since Willie was guilty, but he told me who was pressuring and why.” Oppenheimer continued with De Szigethy’s statement to Congress:

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