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I tried to 'calm down' a frantic Douglas Kennedy, nurse testifies

Douglas Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy

Douglas Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy Sr., is flanked by his wife, Molly, and sister Kathleen, left, as he walks back to the Mount Kisco courthouse after a lunch break. (Oct. 22, 2012) Photo Credit: John Meore

A teary-eyed nurse testified Monday that Douglas Kennedy twisted her arm, shoved her out of his way and kicked a colleague as he defied the rules by trying to take his infant son outside a Westchester County hospital last January.

"I kept the baby in my sight at all times," Anna Lane testified before Mount Kisco Judge John Donohue, who is presiding over the trial without a jury. "I stepped inside the elevator and put my finger on the 'door open' button. I was actually asking him to calm down."

Lane, who has worked as a neonatal nurse for 10 years, was one of several staffers involved in the Jan. 7 tussle with Kennedy at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco that led to the misdemeanor charges of child endangerment and physical harassment.

Nurse Angela Adamo said that when Kennedy approached the nurses' station about 7:15 p.m. with his request, she tried to dissuade him because it "didn't seem to make much sense to me." She said the 2-day-old baby, in a hat and blanket, wasn't appropriately dressed for a January evening.

Lane and another nurse, Cari Luciano, contend that Kennedy, 45, then tried to bully his way past them with Anthony Boru Kennedy in his arms to get "some fresh air" without a pediatrician's permission or a bassinet.

Lane said she blocked Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy Sr., from leaving the third-floor maternity ward by elevator and then a stairwell.

"He grabbed my left hand ... and twisted my arm," she said. "He kicked Cari and she went flying in one direction."

Kennedy glanced passively at Lane as she dabbed her eyes with a tissue and said that she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome stemming from the incident.

One of Kennedy's lawyers, Robert Gottlieb, however, could hardly contain himself, springing from his seat to grill Lane. He produced a file folder with letters from Elliot Taub, Lane's lawyer, to the hospital seeking to put pressure on police to charge Kennedy.

Gottlieb also mocked Lane's tears, noting that she went on the national TV less than two weeks after the fracas.

"Did you relive this incident knowing it was going to be broadcast for what, 30 or 60 million viewers?" he thundered. "Did anybody force you to go on the 'Today' show and go through all this in front of millions of viewers?"

"No," she answered.

Last March, Taub, also sent a letter to Kennedy saying that the nurses would settle the case if Kennedy apologized to them on the "Today" show, paid an unspecified amount of cash and agreed to perform community service for two weeks, preferably collecting garbage. Kennedy declined the offer.

Sitting in the front row on Monday, Kennedy's wife, Molly, stared coldly at Lane. Two of Kennedy's older siblings, Maxwell Kennedy and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, sat next to her as other witnesses testified about a flurry of alarms that were set off during the incident.

One blared when Kennedy allegedly took a security band off the newborn. Two hospitalwide alarms -- "code purple" and "code pink" -- were sounded to declare a disorderly situation and a missing baby.

Defense lawyer Celia Gordon said the "code pink" was inappropriate because it's meant for baby abductions. Adamo said she ordered the "code pink" when she heard someone say, "He's taking the baby." But she also testified that she never thought Kennedy would fail to return with the infant.

In her opening statement, Gordon said Kennedy was acting on instinct rather than intent when he kicked at Lane. "He would not have done anything that he thought was going to hurt his baby in any way," Gordon told Donohue.

Prosecutor Amy Puerto countered that Kennedy did not stop until he faced a security guard on the stairwell and the child was returned to the unit. She alleged he said to the guard, "Do you know who I am?"

Hospital security chief Eric Hartmann testified that he called Mount Kisco police when he heard about the incident. He acknowledged that he didn't have much information about what had happened and told police it was "some kind of custody thing."

Douglas and Molly Kennedy, who have five children and live in Chappaqua, issued a statement in February that said, "Our simple desire to take our son outside for fresh air has been warped into a charge of child endangerment."

Kennedy, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, faces a maximum of a year behind bars if convicted.

Gottlieb is expected to continue cross-examining Lane on Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. The trial is likely to last several days.

With The Associated Press

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