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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A Kennedy family member's groggy behavior after her 2012 arrest for sideswiping a tractor-trailer was not the result of a criminal act but of mistakenly taking a sleeping pill instead of thyroid medication, her lawyers argued at her trial Monday.
Kerry Kennedy, 54, daughter of assassinated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the ex-wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of driving while impaired.
"This case is about a mistake, plain and simple," defense attorney Gerald Lefcourt said in his opening statement in Westchester County Court in White Plains, about 35 miles north of New York City.
Lefcourt said it was a medication mix-up that led to Kennedy's arrest for erratically driving her silver Lexus on Interstate 684 near North Castle in Westchester County the morning of July 13, 2012.
Lefcourt described Kennedy as a devout Roman Catholic and a devoted humanitarian and mother who would never willfully drive while impaired.
A jury trial is unusual for a relatively minor unclassified misdemeanor. If convicted, Kennedy could face up to a year in prison, but with no prior criminal record, it is unlikely she would serve any time behind bars, court officials said.
A toxicology report after Kennedy's arrest showed she had the drug zolpidem, which is sold under the brand name Ambien, in her system. The drug is a slow-acting medication to induce sleep and overcome insomnia.
Prosecutors said Kennedy continued to drive her car after realizing she was impaired, endangering herself and other drivers, before running off the road and passing out behind the wheel.
Witnesses testified on Monday that they saw her Lexus traveling at high speed, tailgating and veering into other lanes.
Nobody was injured.
Kennedy drove about five miles while swerving into other lanes of traffic, the grassy median and eventually a tractor-trailer, prosecutors told the jury.