MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. ‒ Lawyers made their closing statements Friday in the child endangerment and harassment trial of Robert F. Kennedy's son Douglas in Mount Kisco Justice Court.
Judge John Donahue said he would render a decision “in a reasonable period of time” on whether Kennedy is guilty of criminal charges in a Jan. 7 incident involving two Northern Westchester Hospital nurses.
Kennedy has pleaded not guilty to two counts of harassment, which is a violation, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, which is a misdemeanor.
On the night in question, Kennedy reportedly told hospital staff in the maternity ward that he wanted to take his two-day old son outside for "fresh air."
Nurses Cari Luciano and Anna Lane said they attempted to prevent Kennedy from leaving with the baby through the stairwell door.
The nurses testified that Kennedy twisted Lane’s arm as she held the doorknob to the stairwell, then kicked Luciano in the groin as she reached toward the baby.
In his almost two-hour closing statement, Kennedy lawyer Robert Gottlieb said the heart of the case is that the nurses were “grossly overreacting to a father’s simple request.” The case "should never have come before a criminal court," he added.
Gottlieb painted Luciano and Lane as calculating and vengeful, arguing that they elaborated on events to the Mount Kisco Police and pressured the department as well as the Westchester District Attorney’s Office to make a criminal arrest. He said they were told by their personal injury lawyer, Elliot Taub, that this would enhance their civil case and line their pockets with Kennedy's money.
“Thank God for the video tape,” he said, arguing that it belied much of the nurses’ testimony, specifically, whether Kennedy family friend and Northern Westchester Hospital physician Timothy Haydock, who accompanied Kennedy that night, appeared to be a doctor and whether Kennedy actually twisted Lane’s arm on the knob.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Puerto said opposing counsel was trying to turn the subject away from what the case was really about: a man who resorted to violence instead of simply complying with requests.”
“The defense is attempting to distract you with 101 irrelevant issues,” she said.
Ultimately, she said, the case is simple: Is the defendant guilty of the charges? Throughout the last five days, she said, the defense has put the people's witnesses ‒ the hospital workers ‒ on trial.
“This is a classic case of blaming the victim,” Puerto said.