June 13, 2006

Kennedy pleads guilty to driving while taking drugs

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.

"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."

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 or serve the jail time
if he follows all the requirements of the plea agreement.

"Mr. Kennedy has been treated like any other citizen found
guilty of driving under the influence, and he will be expected
to comply with the conditions of his probation," Washington's
attorney general Robert Spagnoletti said in a statement.

Kennedy drove his car into a cement barrier in the early
morning hours on May 4. He later said he had been disoriented
by taking the sleeping pill Ambien and the powerful anti-nausea
medication Phenergan.

Police said he appeared to be intoxicated and had red,
watery eyes and slurred speech. No sobriety tests were
conducted at the scene and Kennedy has denied drinking alcohol
before the accident.

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)