Nurses in a maternity ward aggressively overreacted to a simple request from a son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, then tried to cover up their actions in hopes of "lining their pockets" with Kennedy money, a defense lawyer said Friday.
But a prosecutor said Douglas Kennedy needlessly "resorted to violence" when the nurses wouldn't let him take his newborn son out for a walk.
Kennedy is charged with child endangerment and physical harassment in the Jan. 7 incident at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y. He is accused of kicking one nurse and twisting the arm of another as he tried to get out with 2-day-old Anthony Boru Kennedy.
The trial ended Friday with closing arguments. Mount Kisco Town Judge John Donohue, who heard the case without a jury, did not say when he would rule.
Kennedy, who did not testify, has said he just wanted to get his son some fresh air. The nurses claim he was violating hospital policies. The confrontation resulted in a series of alarms at the hospital, including a hospital-wide "code pink," which is used to signal a baby's abduction.
Defense attorney Robert Gottlieb called the code pink "preposterous" and pointed out that a hospital guide says the purpose of the alarm is to reunite a baby with its family.
He said nurse Anna Lane told Kennedy she would not let him take the baby off the maternity floor, then chased him as he headed for the exit, disabled an elevator and tried to block the door to a stairwell.
Lane says Kennedy twisted her arm in a struggle at the door. Gottlieb denied there was any injury.
Nurse Cari Luciano, who is seen on surveillance video falling to the floor near the stairway, said that happened when Kennedy kicked her as she reached for the baby in Kennedy's arms. But Gottlieb said it was a push rather than a kick and was an instinctive reaction of a father trying to protect his baby.
Kennedy also fell when that happened, but kept hold of the baby. Prosecutors said his actions endangered the boy.
"The fact that the baby was not injured is a miracle," said Assistant District Attorney Amy Puerto.
Gottlieb alleged that when the nurses realized the hospital would investigate the incident, they "join together, get their stories straight and pressure the district attorney's office to bring charges."
He said they'd been told that any potential lawsuit would have a better chance if a criminal conviction came first.
"It's an embarrassment that two nurses would so blatantly lie," Gottlieb said.
However, Puerto said that argument was "a classic case of blaming the victims."
"The nurses are not on trial," she said.
She said Kennedy "resorted to violence instead of simply complying with a request."
"He would not be denied despite the safety and best interests of his child," she said.
Kennedy's wife, Molly, and other relatives have been accompanying Kennedy to the trial.
A state investigation launched after Kennedy's arrest in February, including a visit to the Kennedy home in Chappaqua, found no evidence of child abuse.
Kennedy, 45, is the 10th of 11 children of Robert and Ethel Kennedy. His father was assassinated in 1968. President John F. Kennedy, his uncle, was assassinated in 1963.
It has been a difficult year for the Kennedys in New York's suburbs. Douglas Kennedy's sister-in-law, Mary Kennedy, hanged herself in May in Bedford. His sister, Kerry Kennedy, has pleaded not guilty to drug-impaired driving after an accident on Interstate 684.
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