Kerry Kennedy Not Guilty in Drugged-Driving Case

Image: Kerry Kennedy Not Guilty in Drugged-Driving Case

Friday, 28 Feb 2014 01:45 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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A Westchester County, N.Y., jury Friday morning found Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, not guilty in her drugged-driving case.

The jury had been deliberating since Thursday after hearing testimony in the case about the July 2012 arrest of Kennedy on Interstate 684. At the time, she was under the influence of the sleep drug Ambien, according to The Journal News. 

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USA Today reported that Kennedy, 54, could have served a year in jail if she was convicted. The ex-wife of current New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said she mistakenly took the drug before driving, mixing it up with her thyroid medication that had a similar appearance.

Kennedy supporters, which included her 85-year-old mother Ethel Kennedy, cheered and clapped as the verdict was read, according to the New York Times. Kennedy embraced attorney William I. Aronwald and acknowledged her lawyer Gerald B. Lefcourt as people left. 

In closing arguments, Lefcourt told jurors that that the prosecution did not offer any evidence that Kennedy "realized she accidentally took the sleeping pill Zolpidem and continued to drive."

"This is a case with not a reasonable doubt — there is overwhelming doubt," Lefcourt told jurors Thursday.

Jurors deliberated for about 30 minutes on Thursday and then for another 30 minutes Friday before coming to a verdict.

The case was a rare misdemeanor trial in Westchester County, where most of its 2,500 cases are typically plea bargained down to noncriminal violations, according to The Times. Kennedy's attorneys said they believe charges would not have been brought forth if she was not part of the prominent Kennedy family.

The Kennedy case was transferred from North Castle Town Court to Westchester County Superior Court because of its high-profile nature, her lawyers argued.

In 2012, only 21 people — 0.2 percent of all cases — were fully acquitted on misdemeanor charges in county court, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, making jury's decision a rare occurrence.

Kennedy is the seventh of 11 children born to Robert and Ethel Kennedy.

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