Douglas Kennedy acquitted in nurse tussle case
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Douglas Kennedy, the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy Sr., was cleared of all charges Tuesday stemming from a fight he had with two nurses when he tried to leave a Westchester County hospital with his newborn in January.
Mount Kisco Judge John Donohue, who heard the nonjury misdemeanor case, found Kennedy, 45, not guilty of physical harassment and child endangerment.
"It is abundantly apparent that the nurses understood it was not the intention of (Kennedy) to leave the hospital with the child and not return," the judge wrote in his 10-page decision. "It was clear that the defendant was going outside the hospital on an unseasonably warm winter evening for a short period and then returning with the child."
Defense attorney Robert Gottlieb said he told Kennedy about the judge's written verdict about 3 p.m.
"He's obviously thrilled and relieved that this nightmare is over," Gottlieb said. "He knew he did nothing wrong."
Gottlieb said he was relieved that Donohue was not swayed by the media attention the case attracted.
"We are very grateful to Judge Donohue for having the courage to decide this case based on the facts and not the barrage of publicity," he said.
Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, said, "We respect the judge's decision."
"We think that justice was not served today," said Dan Lutz, spokesman for the association. "The video of Douglas Kennedy assaulting two nurses speaks for itself. If you are powerful, you can get away with assaulting nurses."
Gottlieb said the verdict had nothing to do with Kennedy's name or societal standing. The video footage, he said, "clearly showed" the nurses were lying. The nurses, he said, were looking to bolster a potential civil suit against Kennedy.
"Right from the beginning, it was very clear that this was simply an attempt by the nurses to collect money," Gottlieb said.
He used the word "disgraceful" several times to describe the Westchester County district attorney's office and the decision by prosecutors to move forward with the trial. Celia Gordon, Gottlieb's co-counsel in the case, said the verdict would derail any plans for a civil suit against Kennedy.
"If they were to, at this point, go forward with a civil suit, it would be a continued abuse of the justice system as a whole, and that would truly be disgraceful," Gordon said.
The charges stemmed from a Jan. 7 incident at the maternity ward of Northern Westchester Hospital, when Kennedy tried to take his 2-day-old son, Anthony Boru, out of the hospital for some "fresh air" about 7:15 p.m.
During the October trial, nurses Anna Lane and Cari Luciano testified that they tried to block Kennedy's path to the third-floor maternity ward elevator and then a stairwell, saying he was violating hospital rules that prohibit the removal of newborns without a doctor's permission.
A tearful Lane told the judge that Kennedy "grabbed my left hand ... and twisted my arm. He kicked Cari and she went flying in one direction."
Lane said she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome stemming from the incident.
At trial, Assistant District Attorney Amy Puerto labeled Kennedy "a man who resorted to violence instead of complying with requests." She said Kennedy was not deterred until he faced a security guard on the stairwell, whereupon the child was returned to the unit. She alleged he said to the guard, "Do you know who I am?"
Kennedy, a Fox TV newscaster who lives in Chappaqua with his wife and their five children, could have faced up to a year in jail if convicted. He did not testify at his trial.