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Kerry Kennedy charged with driving while on drugs

Kerry Kennedy speaks to the media before the

Kerry Kennedy speaks to the media before the funeral of sister-in-law Mary Kennedy at Saint Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Bedford. (May 19, 2012) Credit: Faye Murman

Kerry Kennedy, the ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, was charged Friday with driving while impaired by drugs after she sideswiped a tractor trailer in northern Westchester County and left the scene.

A law enforcement source said Kennedy told police she had taken Ambien, a prescription drug typically used to combat insomnia. The source said Kennedy was taken to Northern Westchester Hospital where she consented to a blood test. Police said they are awaiting the results of those tests.

Drivers headed south on I-684 in North Castle called police about 8 a.m. to report a person behind the wheel of a 2008 white Lexus RS 350 driving erratically in the southbound lanes, police said.

The Lexus, driven by Kennedy, 52, sideswiped a tractor-trailer, witnesses told cops. With a flat tire and her car damaged, Kennedy pulled off at Exit 3 leading to Route 22 and was sitting behind the wheel when troopers found her a few minutes later, police said.

She was charged with driving while impaired by drugs and released, News12 reported. She is scheduled to appear in North Castle Court on July 17.

A Kennedy spokesman denied that she was using drugs at the time of her arrest.

"Kerry Kennedy voluntarily took breathalyzer, blood and urine tests -- all of which showed no drugs or alcohol whatsoever in her system," spokesman Ken Sunshine said. "The charges were filed before the test results were available."

Troopers at Troop K headquarters in Poughkeepsie said they believe investigators are awaiting lab results.

Kerry Kennedy's arrest marks yet another chapter in what has been a difficult season for the Kennedy clan. In May, Mary Richardson Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy's sister-in-law and friend of 37 years, committed suicide by hanging herself in the barn of her Bedford home. Last week, autopsy results were released showing that Mary Kennedy, who had struggled with substance abuse, had antidepressants in her system at the time of her death.

Mary Kennedy, who was estranged from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the time of her death, was arrested twice on charges of driving while intoxicated. She and Kerry met in boarding school.

"She struggled so hard, for so long, with mental illness, which so many Americans suffer with," Kerry Kennedy said after her sister-in-law's death. "She fought with dignity, and in the end, the demons won."

Her brother Douglas Kennedy, the 10th of the 11 siblings, is embroiled in a legal battle after two nurses claimed he injured them on Jan. 7 when he tried to take his newborn son from a hospital maternity ward. Kennedy, 44, said he was protecting his son "from a complete stranger who tried to grab him from my arms." A judge is expected to rule by Aug. 9 on charges of physical harassment and child endangerment.

Kerry Kennedy and Andrew Cuomo wed in 1990 in Washington, joining two of America's first families of politics in a union dubbed Cuomolot.

The couple split in 2003 in a messy public divorce that played out in the tabloids with allegations of Kennedy's affair. They have three daughters, twins Cara and Mariah and Michaela..

Kennedy, a lawyer. is president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, whose work includes advocating on behalf of immigrant farm workers. She makes regular appearances on behalf of the center.

This week Kennedy issued a statement honoring the work of Librada Paz, an upstate New York woman and Mexican émigré who is working on legislation that would advance the workplace rights of farm workers. "This legislation would reverse 80 years of systemic justice on our farms and Ms. Paz will be an unparalleled leader as we take this campaign for labor rights from the field to the Capitol," Kennedy said.

A graduate of Brown University and Boston College Law School, she founded Speak Truth to Power, a global education initiative, and is the author of "Being Catholic Now: Prominent Americans Talk About Change in the Church and the Quest for Meaning" and "Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World," according to the RFK center's website.

With the Associated Press

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