Kerry Kennedy was acquitted of drugged driving charges this Friday after a four-day trial in White Plains, N.Y. Kennedy said she was "happy that justice was done," and not angry at the prosecutors who brought the case. “To tell you the truth, anger is the last feeling I have right now,” she said after the verdict. “I’m full of gratitude.” If convicted, she could have spent up to a year in jail.
The trial stemmed from an incident on July 13, 2012, when Kennedy -- a prominent human rights activist, daughter of assassinated presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and former wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) -- says she accidentally took a dose of zolpidem, well-known under the brand name Ambien, instead of her daily thyroid medication. She then left her home in Bedford, NY, and headed toward the gym in her Lexus SUV, driving erratically and hitting a tractor trailer. Law enforcement officers pulled her over after she got off on the next exit, and she failed several sobriety tests, which she later passed when taken to a nearby police station.
The prosecution's case focused on proving Kennedy knew she was impaired, while Kennedy's team built a defense around the fact that zolpidem "hijacks your ability to make decisions,"as Kennedy's lawyer said during the trial.
According to the New York Times coverage of the verdict, trials of driving under the influence cases in Westchester County are unusual, and Kennedy's legal team thought the case had a lot more to do with her name than the crime. About 2,500 cases involving drugged driving are filed in the county annually, but most are bargained down to a noncriminal violation with a fine. Many members of the Kennedy family attended the trial, which needed to be moved to the bigger state courthouse in White Plains because of the national attention it drew.
Kennedy started the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in 1988, is the chair of the Amnesty International Leadership Council, and serves on the board of several other human rights groups.