MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. – Mount Kisco Village Justice John Donohue cited Douglas Kennedy's intent to take his son outside for fresh air as a key factor in his acquittal on two counts of harassment and one count of child endangerment.
The not-guilty verdict was announced Tuesday.
The charges against Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, stem from a Jan. 7 incident at Mount Kisco's Northern Westchester Hospital involving two nurses.
Beginning Oct. 22, in a trial that lasted five days, the judge heard testimony from nurses Cari Luciano and Anna Lane, who said they were attempting to prevent Kennedy from leaving the maternity ward with his 2-day-old son, Bo, after Kennedy reportedly told hospital staff that he wanted to take the baby outside for “fresh air.”
The nurses testified that Kennedy twisted Lane’s arm as she held the doorknob to a stairwell, then kicked Luciano in the groin as she reached toward the baby.
Regarding the two charges of harassment, the judge concurred with defense, saying that what the prosecution called a kick was a “spontaneous response” to prevent the nurse from removing the baby from Kennedy’s arms.
Donohue wrote that the nurses “chose to physically confront the defendant” at the stairwell, and while the prosecution argued that intent to harass can be implied by the act itself, the nurses had testified that the defendant's manner was calm and deliberate.
“The court finds such explanation consistent with the defendant’s demeanor throughout the period of this incident,” Donohue wrote.
On the charges of child endangerment, the judge wrote, the operative words in interpreting the law are ‘knowingly’ and ‘likely'; that is, whether the defendant can be found guilty of knowingly acting in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child.
The judge said pointed out that Kennedy’s intent was to take his son outside for fresh air, and Dr. Timothy Haydock, the defendant’s friend and an emergency room doctor on duty, testified that he told Kennedy taking the baby outside would not be harmful to the child.
“There was no evidence introduced by the People that the mere act of taking his child outside the building would likely be injurious to the child’s physical welfare,” the judge wrote.
In his decision, Donohue stated the court's responsibility was not “to determine whether the defendant’s behavior was wise or prudent,” but to prove that the prosecution showed that Kennedy was guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.