Kerry Kennedy's Ambien driving case moves toward trial

Kerry Kennedy enters North Castle Town Court. An Kerry Kennedy enters North Castle Town Court. An attorney for Kerry Kennedy said there will be no plea bargain in the driving case against her. (Jan. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

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The case against Kerry Kennedy, who was arrested last July on charges of driving under the influence of a sleep aid, moved closer to trial Tuesday as her lawyer said she would not consider a plea deal and a North Castle judge set a schedule for attorneys to file motions.

Wearing a long purple coat and accompanied by her lawyers William Aronwald and Gerald Lefcourt, as well as an unidentified friend, Kennedy spent a few minutes in Town Judge Elyse Lazansky's courtroom while they worked out a timetable and set her next court date for May 7. Lazansky said she would issue her rulings on the pretrial motions, which will include a motion to dismiss the case, at that time.

Aronwald later told Newsday that "the motion will be based on the fact that there is no evidence Kerry knowingly ingested Ambien before getting behind the wheel. She accidentally took the pill instead of the thyroid medicine that she has to take every day. Basically, there is no evidence to sustain the charge against her."

Kennedy, 53, did not speak during the hearing and left the courthouse in a white Lexus sedan. She has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge of driving while drugged and faces a year in jail if convicted.

Kennedy, the daughter of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was arrested July 13 after the car she was driving sideswiped a tractor trailer and frightened other motorists as she drove erratically south on Interstate 684 about 8 a.m. She left the highway at Exit 3, and a North Castle police officer found her slumped over the steering wheel of her 2008 Lexus on nearby Route 22, authorities said.

"I remember getting on the highway, and then I have no memory until I was stopped at a traffic light and a police officer was at my car door," Kennedy told reporters after her first appearance in North Castle Town Court. "In my discussion with the police officer, I was confused and erratic."

Kennedy, who was alone and headed to the gym when the incident occurred, said she "told the officer that it was theoretically possible that I had mistakenly taken an Ambien rather than a thyroid pill earlier that morning."

Kennedy, who lives in Bedford, initially blamed the incident on a partial seizure that was caused by a previously undiagnosed condition. State Police blood tests taken July 13, however, showed that Kennedy had the prescription sleep aid in her system.

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