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Kerry Kennedy found slumped over wheel: Source

Kerry Kennedy, sister-in-law of Mary Richardson Kennedy, holds

Kerry Kennedy, sister-in-law of Mary Richardson Kennedy, holds a press conference in front of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Bedford. (May 18, 2012) Photo Credit: John Roca

Police found Kerry Kennedy, the ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, slumped over the wheel of her car before she was charged Friday with driving while impaired by drugs, a law enforcement source told Newsday.

Kennedy's arrest came after she sideswiped a tractor trailer on Interstate 684 in northern Westchester County and left the scene in her 2008 Lexus RS 350 around 8 a.m. Friday and was found by police about five miles away on the shoulder of Exit 3 leading to Route 22, her car damaged and a tire flattened, police said.

A law enforcement source said Kennedy, 52, of Bedford, told police she had taken Ambien, a prescription drug typically used to combat insomnia. According to drug manufacturer sanofi aventis' website, Ambien's potential side effects include "sleep driving" -- driving without knowing it.

The source said Kennedy was taken to Northern Westchester Hospital where she consented to a blood test, the results of which are expected in about a week.

Drivers headed south on I-684 in North Castle called 911 to report a person behind the wheel of a 2008 white Lexus RS 350 driving erratically in the southbound lanes, police said. She was charged with driving while impaired by drugs and released. She is scheduled to appear in North Castle Court on July 17.

A Kennedy spokesman denied Friday that she was using drugs at the time of her arrest; the spokesman would not comment further Saturday.

"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 in the Friday statement. "The charges were filed before the test results were available."

State Police Maj. Michael Kopy, the commander of Troop K which patrols the area in which Kennedy was arrested, declined to comment on the case Saturday.

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.

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