Kennedy Lawyer Seeks NWH Records in Child Endangerment Case

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Nurses outside Mt. Kisco courtroom
Members of the New York State Nurses Association stood outside the Mount Kisco Justice Court on June 14 in support of their two colleagues who have stated that Douglas Kennedy injured them when he tried to take his newborn son out of Northern Westchester Hospital earlier this year.

The attorney for Douglas Kennedy argued last week that he should have access to detailed records from Northern Westchester Hospital to help defend his client against misdemeanor child endangerment and harassment charges.

During a June 14 court appearance to hear arguments on the hospital’s motion to quash a subpoena, Kennedy’s attorney, Robert Gottlieb, asked Mount Kisco Village Justice John Donohue to allow him to view video surveillance tapes of all cameras that were in close proximity to the maternity ward for two hours before and after the Jan. 7 incident.

Kennedy, a son of the late Robert Kennedy, is accused of twisting the arm of one nurse and kicking another in the pelvic area when they tried to stop him from taking his newborn son outside for fresh air without proper authorization.

Gottlieb also sought to view the two nurses’ medical records, employment records preceding and following the incident, the employment history of the doctor on call at the time of the incident, and a copy of the hospital’s policy regarding parents taking newborn infants out of the maternity area.

In his arguments to Donohue, the defense attorney denied his requests are “a fishing expedition,” contending that under state criminal procedure law the defendant and his attorney have the right to see for themselves all the information that may be related to a case. Gottlieb said one of his tasks was to test the credibility of the nurses, the key witnesses who have claimed they were injured in the incident.

“We’re not interested in prying into these nurses’ past lives,” Gottlieb explained to Donohue. “We are interested in looking at what is relevant to this case.”

However, the attorney for Northern Westchester Hospital, David Poppick, said since the hospital isn’t involved in the criminal charges, there isn’t the same standard to comply with requests for records access.

Poppick also said Gottlieb has received from the district attorney’s office the copy of all of the pertinent surveillance video in question. Gottlieb confirmed that he did receive the tape.

However, more extensive footage from the maternity area on Jan. 7 may not exist since the hospital usually reuses its tapes unless something unusual occurs.

“We can’t produce what we don’t have,” Poppick said.

Poppick said Kennedy and his wife, Molly, had received a packet at the time she was admitted outlining rules for the maternity ward, including only moving infants in bassinets.

The court will also consider a request from Gottlieb to allow him to inspect areas of the maternity ward during a site visit.

“I have absolutely no authority to make the hospital or anybody at the hospital let him in,” Assistant District Attorney Amy Puerto said of Gottlieb.

Puerto said the prosecutor’s office is in no position to force the hospital to turn over additional video or any of the other records to the defendant’s legal team. The district attorney’s office provided Gottlieb with the same tape it had received from the hospital.

Before the close of the court session, which lasted a little more than an hour, Donohue announced that the next court date is on Aug. 9, when he is expected to rule on Northern Westchester Hospital’s motion.

Before and after the arrival of Kennedy and his legal representatives, about 40 members of the New York State Nurses Association dressed in red shirts, with some holding signs, stood outside the courtroom entrance in a show of support for their two colleagues. Kennedy, however, was taken in and out of the courthouse through a separate entrance.

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