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Published: Tuesday, 6/13/2006

Kennedy pleads guilty to DUI in plea deal for treatment, probation

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON Rep. Patrick Kennedy pleaded guilty today to driving under the influence of prescription drugs and was sentenced to undergo court-ordered drug treatment and a year s probation.

Kennedy, D-R.I., also was ordered to pay at least $350 in connection with his middle-of-the-night car crash last month near the Capitol.

Two other charges against Kennedy were dismissed: reckless driving and failure to exhibit a driving permit.

Accompanied by his lawyer, Kennedy entered his plea this afternoon before Superior Court Magistrate Judge Aida Melendez.

I am pleading guilty to driving under the influence, Kennedy said.

Melendez ordered Kennedy to undergo court-monitored drug treatment and pay $350 $250 of which would go to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, and $100 to a crime victims fund. She also gave Kennedy a 10-day jail sentence that he would serve if he violated the terms of his probation, and she ordered him to serve 50 hours of community service with the boys and girls club.

Today in court, I suffered the consequences of my actions, Kennedy told reporters outside the courthouse. I look forward today to moving on to the next chapter in my life.

Kennedy was joined in court by Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., who is his sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous. Ramstad said he d had a wake-up call similar to Kennedy s several years ago.

I m grateful he has accepted his addiction and he is going to be just fine one day at a time, Ramstad said.

Under the terms of his plea deal, Kennedy must attend weekly meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and a recovery group facilitated by his physician, Dr. Ronald Smith. He must check in with Ramstad once a week and submit to random urine screenings.

Kennedy also has to meet regularly with a qualified psychiatrist to monitor mood symptoms, anxiety and use of psychotropic prescription medications, according to court documents.

Kennedy was booked on the three charges at Capitol Police headquarters about 12:30 p.m. today, according to police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.

Kennedy returned to Congress last week after nearly a month of treatment for addiction to prescription pain drugs at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

The six-term congressman, who has struggled with addiction since high school, entered the clinic one day after the May 4 crash on Capitol Hill that he said he could not remember.

The accident has raised questions about whether Kennedy, 38, was drinking and had received special treatment by police, who did not conduct field sobriety tests. He has denied consuming alcohol before the crash.

In the hours before the crash, Kennedy said he returned home from work and took a sleeping pill, Ambien, and Phenergan, a prescription anti-nausea drug that can cause drowsiness. He said he did not consume alcohol.

Kennedy crashed his green 1997 Ford Mustang convertible into a security barrier near the Capitol about 3 a.m. The officer listed alcohol influence as a contributing factor in the crash and noted that Kennedy was ability impaired, with red, watery eyes, slurred speech and unsteady balance, according to the accident report.

Police did not conduct field sobriety tests on Kennedy. A police union official has said the officers involved in the accident were instructed by a superior to take the congressman home. Kennedy has denied asking for special treatment.

Police had observed Kennedy s car, with no headlights on, swerve into the wrong lane and strike a curb. Kennedy nearly hit a police car, the report said, and did not respond to the officer s efforts to pull him over. He continued at a slower speed before hitting a security barrier head-on, the report said.

Kennedy told the police officer he was headed to the Capitol to make a vote, the report said. He was cited for failure to keep in the proper lane, traveling at unreasonable speed and failing to give full time and attention to operating his vehicle.

Kennedy s office has said that it has not received those initial citations.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.



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