Published November 21, 2012
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Douglas Kennedy, a son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was acquitted Tuesday of child endangerment and harassment charges stemming from a scuffle in a hospital maternity ward.
Kennedy had tried in January to take his newborn son from Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco. He said he just wanted the 2-day-old boy, Anthony Boru Kennedy, to get some fresh air.
However, several nurses objected, saying his request would violate hospital policy. Kennedy tried to leave anyway, and two nurses claimed he hurt them as they blocked his way.
Mount Kisco Town Judge John Donohue, who heard the case without a jury, ruled that Kennedy broke no laws. He said testimony showed that the baby was not in danger -- except from the nurses' actions -- and that Kennedy did not demonstrate any intent to hurt them.
The judge said he didn't have to rule on whether it was a good idea to take the baby outside.
"The Court is not determining whether the defendant's behavior was wise or prudent," he wrote.
Kennedy's lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, said after the decision, "Given the barrage of public attention, it took a great deal of courage from this judge and we really do appreciate it."
The hospital confrontation resulted in a series of alarms, including a "code pink," which is used to signal a baby's abduction. In his closing argument, Gottlieb called the alarm "preposterous."
The judge found that the nurses knew Kennedy planned to return and was not absconding with the baby.
Gottlieb argued that the nurses overreacted to Kennedy's request and when they realized the hospital would investigate, they "join together, get their stories straight and pressure the district attorney's office to bring charges."
He said they'd been told that any potential lawsuit for damages would have a better chance if a criminal conviction came first.
"It's an embarrassment that two nurses would so blatantly lie," Gottlieb said.
Nurse Anna Lane testified that Kennedy twisted her arm as she tried to block him from going through a door to a stairwell. Nurse Cari Luciano said Kennedy kicked her as she reached for the baby in Kennedy's arms.
Gottlieb said it was a push rather than a kick and was an instinctive reaction of a father trying to protect his baby. The judge said that explanation was "consistent with the defendant's demeanor" as seen on hospital surveillance video.
Kennedy fell during that scuffle but kept hold of the baby. Prosecutors said his actions endangered the infant.
"The fact that the baby was not injured is a miracle," Assistant District Attorney Amy Puerto said.
But the judge said the nurses' actions -- blocking the door and trying to take the child -- "were intervening factors that caused the defendant to lose his balance."
Kennedy's wife, Molly, accompanied him to the trial.
A state investigation, including a visit to the Kennedy home in Chappaqua, found no evidence of child abuse.
Kennedy, 45, is the 10th of 11 children of Robert and Ethel Kennedy. His father was assassinated in 1968. President John F. Kennedy, his uncle, was assassinated in 1963.
Douglas Kennedy's sister-in-law, Mary Kennedy, hanged herself in May in Bedford. His sister, Kerry Kennedy, has pleaded not guilty to drug-impaired driving after an accident on Interstate 684.