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Kerry Kennedy Drugged-Driving Trial Begins In White Plains

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Kennedys are in town to support one of their own.

Ethel Kennedy was among those at a White Plains courthouse for the drugged-driving trial of her daughter Kerry Kennedy.

Robert F. Kennedy’s widow walked slowly with an escort as she entered the building Monday.

Kerry Kennedy arrived flanked by her attorneys to fight the DUI charge. She did not speak to reporters outside the courthouse Monday.

“We look forward to the trial and to a positive outcome but we’re not going to be discussing the case at every break, and we’ll wait until the courtroom to hear all the evidence and we’re very hopeful of the result,” attorney Gerald Lefcourt said.

“We’re not going to comment until things are through,” brother Douglass Kennedy said.

As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, Kerry Kennedy was composed as her attorney told jurors, “This case is about a mistake, pure and simple.”

In July 2012, Kennedy was arrested after her Lexus hit a tractor-trailer on Interstate 684 in North Castle. She drove to the next exit, where she failed a sobriety test, police said. Blood tests revealed a small amount of the sleeping drug zolpidem, which is marketed as Ambien.

Kennedy, 54, the ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, claims she accidentally took a sleeping pill instead of her daily thyroid medication, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.

She claims to have no recollection of the 5-mile swerving ride she took or the crash with the truck. Kennedy says she’ll take the stand in her own defense.

Motorist William Carlino testified Monday that he found Kennedy slumped at the steering wheel of her Lexus and disoriented on the highway.

An earlier witness, Henry Myers, said he saw Kennedy swerve into the tractor-trailer and keep driving despite tire damage.

Prosecutors say it’s up to the jury to decide if the drug was taken accidentally. And even if it was, they say, Kennedy broke the law if she kept driving after feeling the drug’s effects.

“She would’ve known,” Assistant District Attorney Stefanie DeNise told the jury. “By failing to stop the car, she put people in danger.”

In court, Kennedy’s attorney Gerald Lefcourt called zolpidem a drug that “hijacks your ability to make decisions,” CBS 2’s Lou Young reported.

“Kerry Kennedy was ambushed by Ambien,” the attorney added.

Lefcourt also said police video of his client will show just how disoriented she was— at one point even falling asleep in the back a police cruiser.

The trial is expected to last about a week and will focus primarily on the effects of the popular sleep aid — and whether or not Kennedy bears responsibility for driving after taking it.

It’s rare for such a minor charge to be heard in state Supreme Court, but Kennedy’s lawyers successfully argued that the town court in Armonk, which had jurisdiction, was too small and poorly equipped for a high-profile trial.

A town judge and a state judge both refused defense efforts to get the charge dismissed, despite warm letters from family and friends extolling Kennedy’s work in human rights around the world.

If convicted, Kennedy could be fined and have her driver’s license suspended — something she says she needs while traveling the world.

Kennedy won permission from Justice Robert Neary to miss last week’s jury selection because she was on a human rights trip to the Western Sahara.

Because the alleged offense is a misdemeanor, there are just six jurors.

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