MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. (AP) — A son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was acting on instinct when he kicked a maternity ward nurse as she tried to stop him from taking his newborn son out of the hospital, a defense lawyer said Monday.
In opening statements at Douglas Kennedy’s harassment and child endangerment trial, attorney Celia Gordon said Kennedy “just wanted to take his baby out for some fresh air” on Jan. 7 at Northern Westchester Hospital.
Nurses overreacted abrasively, she said, leading to a scuffle.
But prosecutor Amy Puerto said Kennedy had to be stopped because he was violating hospital policy.
She said he refused to obey the nurses, one of whom was injured when he “kicked her so hard in the abdomen that she fell to the floor.”
A second nurse was hurt when Kennedy twisted her arm, Puerto said.
Witnesses testified about a flurry of alarms that were set off during the incident. One blared when Kennedy allegedly took a security band off the baby boy. Two hospital-wide alarms — “code purple” and “code pink” — were called in to declare a disorderly situation and a missing baby.
Both sides agreed that Kennedy, with his son in his arms, approached the nurses’ station with a request to take the baby outside.
Nurse Angela Adamo said she tried to dissuade him because his request “didn’t seem to make much sense to me.”
She also said the baby, in a hat and blanket, wasn’t appropriately dressed.
Kennedy was not persuaded and moved to the elevator and stairwell, where two other nurses tried to block him.
Gordon said that when one nurse reached for the baby, Kennedy kicked the nurse instinctively.
“He was trying to keep her from taking his baby,” she said.
She also said the “code pink” was inappropriate because hospital policy indicates it’s for an abduction.
Adamo said she never thought that Kennedy would not return with the baby.
Puerto said Kennedy did not stop until he encountered a security guard on a stairwell. She alleged he said to the guard, “Do you know who I am?”
Gordon said the nurses claiming injury, who are expected to testify later in the trial, plan to sue Kennedy and have already demanded thousands of dollars. That gives them reason to lie, she said.
The hospital’s security chief, Eric Hartmann, testified that he called Mount Kisco police when he heard about the incident.
On cross-examination, he acknowledged that he did not have much information about what had happened and told police it was “some kind of custody thing.”
Kennedy’s wife, Molly, came to court with him on Monday. The couple issued a statement in February that said, “Our simple desire to take our son outside for fresh air has been warped into a charge of child endangerment.”
Kennedy is the 10th of 11 children of Robert and Ethel Kennedy. His father was assassinated in 1968. President John F. Kennedy, his uncle, was assassinated in 1963.
Kennedy’s arrest was the beginning of a difficult year for the Kennedys in New York. His sister-in-law, Mary Kennedy, hanged herself in May in Bedford. His sister, Kerry Kennedy, has pleaded not guilty to drug-impaired driving after an accident on Interstate 684.