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Kerry Kennedy drugged-driving trial opens in New York

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) -- Kerry Kennedy swerved her Lexus into a truck, damaging the car and blowing a tire, but kept driving and later was slumped at her steering wheel and disoriented, motorists testified Monday at her drugged-driving trial.

Her lawyer said she was "sleep-driving" because she had accidentally taken a sleeping pill.

Kennedy, ex-wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, daughter of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and niece of President John F. Kennedy, went on trial Monday in suburban New York.

In his opening statement, defense lawyer Gerald Lefcourt told the six jurors that Kennedy was not disputing that she drove erratically. But he said it happened because Kennedy accidentally took a sleeping pill that morning instead of her thyroid medication.

Kennedy's blood tests revealed a small amount of the sleeping drug zolpidem.

"The zolpidem kicks in. It shuts her down. She's in a state of sleep-driving," Lefcourt said.

Prosecutor Doreen Lloyd said even if the pill were taken accidentally, Kennedy violated the law "by failing to stop and pull over as she felt the onset of symptoms."

But Lefcourt said Kennedy never knew what the drug was doing to her. He said the medication "hijacks your ability to make decisions."

Kennedy was arrested in 2012 after her car hit a tractor-trailer on an interstate highway near her home outside New York City. She drove to the next exit, where she failed a sobriety test, police said.

One fellow motorist, Henry Myers of North Salem, said he saw Kennedy swerve her car into the tractor-trailer on Interstate 684 and keep driving despite damaging her tire.

"I saw smoke. I figured the car would stop," he said. When it didn't, he called 911.

Another driver, William Carlino of Armonk, testified that a few minutes later he found Kennedy slumped over the wheel and disoriented, with the car running, in a left-turn lane on Route 22. Carlino said her car had one wheel without a tire.

He said he ran from his car to hers and knocked on her window, which seemed to startle her.

"I asked if she was OK and she nodded in the affirmative," he testified. He also called police.

Kennedy's mother, Ethel Kennedy, was among the supporters at her daughter's trial; Robert F. Kennedy's widow, 85, walked slowly with an escort as she entered the courthouse. Two of Kerry Kennedy's brothers, Robert Kennedy Jr. and Douglas Kennedy, also were in the courtroom.

The case was being heard in state Supreme Court, a rarity for such a minor charge, but Kennedy's lawyers successfully argued that the Town Court in Armonk, which had jurisdiction, was too small and poorly equipped for the trial.

A town judge and a state judge both refused defense efforts to get the charge dismissed, despite warm letters from family and friends extolling Kennedy's work in human rights around the world.

Kennedy, 54, of Bedford, won permission from Justice Robert Neary to miss last week's jury selection because she was on a human rights trip to Western Sahara.

The trial is expected to last about a week.

Douglas Kennedy took another minor criminal case to trial in 2012. He was acquitted in a nonjury case of child endangerment and harassment charges stemming from a scuffle in a hospital maternity ward in Mount Kisco.

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breezejd38 February 24 2014 at 3:49 PM

I'm tired of the Elitist Democrats and Elitist Republican RINOS in America, how about you?

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Hi February 24 2014 at 7:00 PM

If she had taken the sleeping pill before she knew how they made her feel and would have known if she was getting sleepy, besides I wonder if they found traces of the drug from the night before, she didn't run anyone over but she could have, the accident could have been far worse.

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BARBS February 24 2014 at 4:16 PM

I live in that area and we are all sick and tired of the Kennedys and their antics. One of them drove drunk onto school property while school was in session. They are always in the media for doing something like this endangering the lives of others along with their own.

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1 reply
pepperlex3 BARBS February 24 2014 at 4:35 PM

I'm sorry you have to live near them, but I admire your courage for saying what you did. Now, if someone could just get the Kennedys to read your comment...

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charpist5 February 24 2014 at 4:20 PM

It is a sad, drug-addicted country. And I'm talking about prescription meds as well as illegal drugs. If you take so many drugs every day that you can't keep them straight, that is even sadder.

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marvin_tidwell February 24 2014 at 4:21 PM

Money talks bull crap walks

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Hello alby February 24 2014 at 4:24 PM

another kennedy drugged driving ( axxhole patrick ) . I once drank a bottle of scotch,thinking it was root-beer.they are changing the spelling of crooked to Krooked,to honor the kennedy's. killer ted, I partied the day the devil came personally to pick him up and ,cripple her joe.rape her smitty,kill her skekel. the law does not refer to krooked kennedy's

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lor1972 February 24 2014 at 4:30 PM

i agree with marvin......are you kidding me???letting guilty people go because they have alot of money.....she could have killed someone else.........

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Bob Allgaier February 24 2014 at 6:51 PM

Well at least she didn't drive her car into a brook,with a passenger while under the influence of alcohol,let the person drown in her submerged vehicle,walk home,wait several hours to sober up and then call the authorities.

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lor1972 February 24 2014 at 4:32 PM

we have a WONDERFUL LEGAL SYSTEM! The lawyers love it!!!!!!their making plenty of money...their crooks as well.

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jwyola February 24 2014 at 6:49 PM

Gee...The Kennedy family seems to have a serious, exclusive interest in the sleeping concoction called Zolpidem. Kerry Kennedy blames it for he crack up on I 684, as Patrick Kennedy, former Congressman from Rhode Island alleged that Zolpidem was causing to wreck his car in the Nation's Capital while the Congressman was on his way to a "late vote" at 2 A.M. one fine morning.

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