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PALM BEACH, Fla.--Several people are under investigation for possible obstruction of justice in the alleged rape at the Kennedy estate, the police chief said yesterday.
Chief Joseph Terlizzese refused to identify any suspects in his first indication that anyone other than a longtime Kennedy family friend, William Barry, misled police.
"It's more than one. There are several people we're still looking at," Terlizzese told The Associated Press.
He wouldn't comment about Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54-'56 (D--Mass.), who blamed "miscommunication" and "semantic misunderstanding" for his failure to talk to police before he left Palm Beach the Monday of Easter weekend, two days after alleged rape occurred.
Kennedy said he didn't know police wee investigating his nephew, William Kennedy Smith, for rape. The senator said he thought Smith was under investigation for "a different offense such as sexual harassment."
Police said they left repeated messages at the estate that they wanted to talk to the senator and Smith. They said they were able to talk only with Barry, a former FBI agent who said he handled security for the estate.
Kennedy's son, Rhode Island legislator Patrick Kennedy, said in a sworn statement to investigators that Barry told him and the senator about police inquiries before they left Palm Beach.
Patrick Kennedy told investigators his father was present when Barry used the term "sexual battery," according to police documents released this week. Sexual battery is the legal term for rape in Florida.
Police have said Barry misled them, although they have not named him as an obstruction suspect.
Under Florida law, investigators could charge someone with obstruction of justice for misleading or deceiving police during an investigation. The misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to one year in prison and fines of $1000.
Joe Mincberg, a veteran West Palm Beach defense attorney who represents a friend of the alleged rape victim, said he didn't see any was Kennedy could be charged with obstruction of justice.
"No citizen can be compelled to talk to police. Merely keeping quiet isn't" obstruction of justice, Mincberg said.
Terlizzese said "there are three or four charges, if any--and underline 'if any'--being looked at."
He wouldn't elaborate. Florida has other laws that could apply, including neglect or refusal to aid peace officers, a misdemeanor.
"It's still preliminary," Terlizzese said, saying police hope to wrap up the obstruction investigation by the end of next week. He wouldn't say whether any of the Kennedys would be interviewed again in the obstruction investigation.
State Attorney David Bludworth, who filed second-degree sexual battery and misdemeanor battery charges May 9 against Smith, will decide whether to file obstruction charges, Terlizzese said.
Bludworth's spokesperson, Jack Freese, said there would be no comment about the investigation.
Moria Lasch, lead prosecutor in the rape case, has been working with police investigators in the obstruction investigation, Terlizzese said.
Among an estimated 1300 pages of police files released this week were references to investigations of claims of witness intimidation by Kennedy family private investigators. At least three were hired.
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