WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Bedford resident Kerry Kennedy appeared at the Westchester County Court in White Plains Monday for the start of her drugged driving trial.
Kennedy is the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, niece of John F. Kennedy and ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She is facing charges of driving while her ability was impaired by drugs following a July 2012 car accident in North Castle. According to police she hit a truck while driving on I-684, and had taken a sleeping pill prior to getting in her car. Kennedy has pleaded not guilty, and said that she took the sleeping pill accidentally instead of her thyroid medication.
The first day of the trial was devoted to opening statements by Assistant District Attorney Stefanie Denise and Kennedy’s defense attorney Gerald Lefcourt. Denise took jury members through what happened that day, and said that Kennedy would have felt the effects of the sleeping pill come on while driving.
“She would have realized her mistake. She would have begun to feel drowsy, tired, lethargic, and she would have known that she was not in the right condition to drive a car,” Denise said. “Ladies and gentlemen, the defendant is responsible for her actions that day, and the consequences and effect of the drug that she put into her body.”
Lefcourt began his statement by talking about Kennedy, her faith and her humanitarian work with the Robert F. Kennedy Center. At one point while Lefcourt was discussing her humanitarian work, Judge Robert Neary interrupted him, telling him to use the opening statement to discuss evidence of the case.
Lefcourt said, “She is not seeking any advantages because of her famous family. On the other hand, she should not be punished because of that family.”
Lefcourt said that the prosecution would not even try to deny the ingestion of the pill was accidental, but said that they could not provide evidence that she realized what she had done after getting in the car.
“There will be no such evidence. That is a powerful drug,” Lefourt said. “It hijacks your ability to make decisions.”
The defense called several witness during the day. Henry Myers, a North Salem resident, testified that he called 911 after seeing Kennedy driving erratically on I-684 and hit the truck. William Carlino testified that he also called police after finding Kennedy’s car parked at an intersection in North Castle and Kennedy slumped over the wheel, unresponsive.
Officer Joel Thomas of the North Castle Police Department was the first to arrive on the scene, and administered the field sobriety test to Kennedy, which she failed. He also showed an hour-long dashboard camera video of him administering the test.
Officer William McClure of the North Castle Police also gave testimony of the scene. State Trooper Bradley Molloy, who had been called to the scene as a drug recognition expert.
Kennedy did not make any comment to the media following her appearance. The trial will resume Tuesday morning.