Kerry Kennedy fights NY drugged-driving charge

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Associated Press

Posted on March 8, 2013 at 5:06 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 8 at 5:07 PM

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Kerry Kennedy argued Friday that the drugged-driving case against her should be dismissed because she accidentally took a sleeping pill and because the only damage done was to her pride and her famous name.

In a 99-page motion filed in North Castle Town Court, Kennedy and her lawyer also recount her work for social justice and include a large file of glowing letters from friends and relatives.

Kennedy is the ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the daughter of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the niece of President John Kennedy.

She was arrested July 13 after police said her Lexus swerved into a tractor-trailer on Interstate 684 in North Castle, near her Bedford home. Police found her on an exit ramp and reported she failed sobriety tests and was slurring her speech.

Tests found a small amount of the sleeping drug zolpidem in Kennedy's blood. She said she believes she accidentally took a sleeping pill instead of her daily thyroid medication.

In the motion, she said the two bottles were side by side and "are virtually identical in size, shape and appearance."

"I have too much regard for the lives of others, as well as my own, to place them at risk by driving while under the influence of zolpidem," she wrote in an affidavit.

Kennedy also discussed her work as president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, for Amnesty International and for human rights groups involving Tibet and Northern Ireland.

Her lawyer's affidavit and many letters to the prosecutor praise her as a champion of justice and a good mother to her three daughters.

"Human rights defenders in need from the tomato fields of Florida to the slums of Port au Prince, the desert of Western Sahara and the still homeless of New Orleans have come to rely on her compassion, keen insight, judgment and support," wrote Kennedy's mother, Ethel Kennedy.

Other letters came from her brothers, sisters and in-laws, several priests and an assistant secretary of state.

Defense lawyer Gerald Lefcourt said a defendant's character can be taken into consideration and added, "By any objective standard, Kerry Kennedy is a uniquely remarkable and selfless woman committed to women's rights and social justice."

He also noted that the assassinations of her uncle and father meant Kennedy "experienced more tragedy by the age of 8 years old than most people experience in a lifetime."

Lefcourt wrote that Kennedy's driving accident caused no injuries or damage to other vehicles, and "any harm is limited to the humiliation and embarrassment inflicted on Ms. Kennedy, and the damage to her reputation because of her community standing and family name."

Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for the Westchester County district attorney's office, said he would not comment on a pending case. The prosecution has until March 26 to respond to the motion.

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