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RFK daughter acquitted in drugged driving case

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2014 at 4:53 pm •  Published: February 28, 2014
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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Kerry Kennedy was swiftly acquitted Friday of drugged driving in a case that her lawyers said would never have been brought if she were simply "Mary Housewife" rather than a member of one of America's most glamorous political families.

After four days of testimony, a six-person jury took a little over an hour to find Kennedy not guilty of driving while impaired. She was arrested in 2012 after swerving into a tractor-trailer on an interstate highway in her Lexus.

The 54-year-old human-rights advocate — the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, niece of President John F. Kennedy and ex-wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — testified she mistakenly took a sleeping pill instead of her daily thyroid medication the morning of the wreck.

If convicted, she could have been sentenced to a year in jail, though that would have been unlikely for a first-time offender.

Her lawyers made sure that the jurors knew all about her famous family. But after the acquittal, they said she should have been treated like "Mary Housewife." And they accused prosecutors of giving her special treatment by refusing to drop the case.

The district attorney's office denied the accusation. And Kennedy herself said she wasn't angry about being put on trial.

In a show of the Kennedy clan's famous loyalty, the defendant's 85-year-old mother, Ethel Kennedy, attended the trial daily. Nearly a dozen other members of the family came by, including three brothers, two sisters, a sister-in-law and three daughters.

Laurence Leamer, who has written three books about the Kennedys, said: "The Kennedys are very loyal to each other in a crisis. ... It's one of the most admirable things about them." He said there's no way to gauge the effect on the jury, but "Kennedys or not, it's Defense 101 to have family members sitting there for the jury to see."

Tobe Berkovitz, a political media consultant and professor of advertising at Boston University, said: "The Kennedys saw this as a DA overreaching, making a big case out of a silly mistake. So they absolutely played every Camelot trump card they had in the deck. They had the family. They had questions about her losing her father as a young girl."

He added, "When the legacy is being challenged, they all step up and fight."

The trial drew so much attention that it was moved from a small-town courtroom to the county courthouse in White Plains.

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