UPDATE 1-RFK daughter says sleeping pill, car crash memories ‘jumbled’


(New throughout, updates with latest testimony about “jumbled”
memory)

By Victoria Cavaliere

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. Feb 26 (Reuters) – The daughter of
assassinated U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy told a court on
Wednesday that she had not realized she had taken a sleeping
pill before side-swiping a truck in 2012 and that her memory of
the incident was “jumbled.”

Kerry Kennedy said at the third day of her impaired driving
trial that she had intended to take a thyroid medication before
getting into her silver Lexus, rather than the sleeping aid
zolpidem, known by its brand name Ambien.

A toxicology report showed the sleeping drug in her
bloodstream.

She said she hardly remembered operating her vehicle and had
no memory of the accident north of New York City.

“If I realized I was impaired I would have pulled over,” she
said. “My memories at that time are really jumbled.”

Earlier in the trial, prosecutors said Kennedy should have
realized she had taken the sleeping pill before the July 13,
2012, accident, in which no one was injured.

Police found Kennedy, the ex-wife of New York Governor
Andrew Cuomo, slumped over the wheel of her car, groggy and
disoriented.

She passed an alcohol test at the scene, registering zero
alcohol in her system, police witnesses testified earlier this
week at Westchester County Court.

Kennedy, 54, had driven more than 5 miles (8 km) at high
speed, swerving into other lanes and smashing into a
tractor-trailer on a highway about 35 miles (56 km) north of New
York City and then driving away. The truck’s driver, Rocco
Scuiletti of Poughkeepsie, was also charged with leaving the
scene of an accident.

Kennedy said her two medications were on her kitchen counter
the morning of the event and she grabbed the wrong bottle
without noticing.

Prosecutors grilled Kennedy about how frequently she used
Ambien, which she said she began using occasionally 10 years
ago. Kennedy agreed with Westchester County Assistant District
Attorney Doreen Lloyd’s assessment that it was “careless” to
grab a medication without looking at the label.

Kennedy said that before she got behind the wheel of her
car, she had not experienced any dizziness or drowsiness that
would have alerted her to the ingestion of the pill.

“So this Ambien pill overtook you without warning?” Lloyd
asked.

“Yes,” Kennedy replied.

Friends and family including mother Ethel Kennedy, the widow
of the slain senator, have been in the courtroom all week to
support Kennedy, an author and human rights activist.

Defense attorneys said the drug’s effects were so quick and
so powerful that Kennedy was essentially “sleep driving” and was
unaware of her actions.

“I never in my entire life had experienced this,” Kennedy
said. “I really just don’t remember.”

A jury trial for an impaired driving charge, an unclassified
misdemeanor, is unusual. The charge carries up to a year in
jail, but with no prior record a defendant is unlikely to serve
an time behind bars, court officials said.

(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Nick Zieminski and David
Gregorio)