NY judge refuses to dismiss Kerry Kennedy case

Last Updated: Tue, May 21, 2013 22:30 hrs

A town judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss a drugged-driving case against Kerry Kennedy, ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Kennedy "cut a wide swath of danger and risk" when she was arrested in July after her Lexus swerved into a tractor-trailer near her home north of New York City, Justice Elyse Lazansky wrote in a ruling filed in North Castle Town Court.

The judge acknowledged Kennedy's public service but said a trial did not have to end that.

"It is safe to say that Kerry Kennedy is not a typical criminal defendant. She has achieved a great deal and is dedicated to good works ... other gifted powerful and wealthy politicians and celebrities too numerous to mention have faced a wide variety of criminal charges and have gone on to do their jobs or serve the public in many important ways," Lazansky said.

No trial date was set, but a trial would be in October at the earliest.

When asked how Kennedy felt about the decision, defense attorney Gerald Lefcourt said Kennedy was "not happy about it, but it is what it is."

"We are very disappointed and we disagree with it, but we have every confidence that Ms. Kennedy will be exonerated," Lefcourt said.

Police said the daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy failed sobriety tests. A small amount of a sleeping drug was found in her blood. She said she believed she accidentally took a sleeping pill that morning instead of thyroid medication.

Prosecutors had argued that dropping the charge would feed the perception that famous people are treated differently.

Kennedy and her lawyers had argued in court papers that fairness demanded a dismissal. They said she took the sleeping pill accidentally and the only harm done was to Kennedy's own pride and her famous name. They recounted her work for social justice and included a large file of glowing letters from friends and relatives.

Kennedy's mother, Ethel Kennedy, wrote that "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."

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

Lefcourt noted that the assassinations of Kennedy's father and uncle, President John F. Kennedy, meant Kennedy "experienced more tragedy by the age of 8 years old than most people experience in a lifetime."

He wrote that Kennedy's 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."

However, the Westchester County district attorney's office opposed a dismissal, saying that "would feed a public perception that people of wealth and privilege are treated differently than others."

The defense said that position held Kennedy to a higher standard "because of her family name and purported wealth and notoriety."

The Kennedy family has been prominent in the news in New York's northern suburbs over the past year.

Kerry Kennedy's sister-in-law and close friend, Mary Kennedy, hanged herself a year ago at her Bedford home. Her brother Douglas Kennedy was acquitted in November of child endangerment and harassment charges stemming from a scuffle in a hospital maternity ward in Mount Kisco.

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