June 13, 2006

Kennedy pleads guilty to DUI in car crash

By Amanda Beck

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a member of
one of America's most famous political dynasties, pleaded
guilty on Tuesday to driving under the influence of
prescription drugs when he crashed his car near the U.S.
Capitol last month.

Kennedy, 38, a Rhode Island Democrat, is the son of
Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy and a nephew of
former President John F. Kennedy.

He has publicly acknowledged a long struggle with drug
dependency and bipolar disorder and was treated at the Mayo
Clinic last month after the May 4 crash. He returned to work in
Congress last week after completing his treatment.

Kennedy pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of
prescription drugs before Magistrate Judge Aida Melendez in the
District of Columbia Superior Court.

In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors dropped two
other charges of reckless driving and failure to exhibit a
driving permit.

Melendez ordered Kennedy to pay $100 to the victims of
crime fund and to give a $250 donation to the Boys and Girls
Club of Greater Washington. He was also ordered to follow a
treatment plan, perform community service and was put on 12
months of supervised probation.

The judge also imposed a fine and a 10-day jail sentence
but said Kennedy would not have to pay it or serve the jail
time if he follows all the requirements of the plea agreement.

"I've always said that I wanted to take full responsibility
for my actions. Today in court I did just that," Kennedy told
reporters outside the courthouse, adding that he was looking
forward to "moving on to the next chapter of my life."

Kennedy has repeatedly maintained that he did not drink
alcohol before smashing his car into a cement barrier in the
early hours of the morning, although police on the scene said
he appeared to be intoxicated. No sobriety tests were conducted
at the scene.

Kennedy said he was disoriented from the sleeping pill
Ambien and the powerful anti-nausea medication Phenergan.

Police said at the time that Kennedy had red, watery eyes,
slurred speech and unsteady balance after the accident -- his
second in three weeks.

Rhode Island Democrats have endorsed him for reelection in
November but the state Republican Party said he should consider
resigning because there was no guarantee that he would be able
to do his job effectively.

(Additional reporting by Vicki Allen, Joanne Kenen and
Deborah Charles)