Kerry Kennedy's attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the impaired driving charge against her, arguing that she did not intentionally take sleeping medication attributed to her July 13, 2012 alleged car accident and that she is someone of good character.
In the 98-page motion, dated Friday and intended for North Castle Justice Court, Kennedy and her attorney, Gerald Lefcourt, give a detailed account of her defense. She is charged with one misdemeanor count of driving while ability impaired (for drugs), in connection to an alleged car accident on Interstate 684 in Armonk that involved a Dutchess County truck driver. The motion included a detailed statement from Kennedy, giving her account of the matter.
In her statement, Kennedy says that she has been prescribed Synthroid, a medication used to treat hyperthyroidism, for more than two decades. At teh same time, she also has a prescription for a sleeping medication called Zolpidem, which is a generic term for the Ambien drug. She notes that on July 12, she was packing for a human rights trip to Africa and took a Zolpidem container out from her cabinet and placed it by the container for Synthroid, which is normally left on a counter. Kennedy adds that the containers for each medication "are virtually identical in size, shape and appearance."
Kennedy, a Bedford resident, adds that the following day, she took a pill from what she thought was her Synthroid, but mistakenly took Zolpidem, before heading to a gym from her home. She recalls driving from her house to I-684 but adds that she has no memory until a police officer knocked on her car's window while she was at a stop at an Armonk traffic light.
"This was very disturbing to me, as I did not know why I had blacked out," Kennedy states. She adds that she voluntarily told police that she may have taken the wrong medication, and acknowledges that the result of a drug test confirmed the presence of Zolpidem in her system.
"Under no circumstances would I knowingly ingest Zolpidem, or any other sleep aid, before going to the gym and certainly never before driving an automobile." Kennedy states."
She added, "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 or any other substance."
Kennedy initially told North Castle police about the apparent mistake, according to the police department's report taken last summer. For a period of time last July, however, Kennedy sought to determine whether there was another cause for the incident. At a press conference after a July court date, she stated that a seizure may have been a reason, citing medical advice sought, testing done and a past head injury sustained. Kennedy's remarks came before results of her drug test were released.
In a follow up statement released last summer after the test results were released, Kennedy explained why she believed in a seizure factor.
"The State Police drug recognition expert, who was at the accident scene, said that in his opinion, I was “not under the influence of a narcotic and might have suffered a medical condition while driving.” Therefore, I thought it prudent to pursue other possible explanations for the accident. After extensive neurological tests, my doctors at Mount Sinai concluded that a partial seizure could have caused the accident."
In the motion, Kennedy and her attorney also emphasize her personal character, describing her as empathetic and selfless. Her character is cited as another argument to dismiss the case.
Examples cited include her role as chair of the Amensty International USA Leadership Council and as president (and board member) of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, an organization named after her late father.
"To say that Kerry Kennedy has had an extraordinary career in public service is to put it mildly," Lefcourt stated. "In fact, by any objective standard, Kerry Kennedy is a uniquely remarkable and selfless woman committed to women's rights and social justice."
The motion was filed in response to a January appearance at North Castle Justice Court in Armonk, in which the intent to file a dismissal motion was announced.
Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the Westchester County District Attorney's office, declined to comment. However, he said that a response to the motion would be filed in the coming weeks.
The trucker involved in the alleged incident, Rocco Scuiletti, took a plea deal in November, pleading guilty to one count of disobeying a traffic device, a non-criminal violation. Scuiletti was initially charged with leaving the scene of an accident, also a violation.