Jul 28, 2014
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Douglas Kennedy Trial Opens in Mount Kisco with Clashes [UPDATE]

Prosecutors portrays Kennedy as reckless, while the defense argues that he was calm and nurses overreacted.

Douglas Kennedy Trial Opens in Mount Kisco with Clashes [UPDATE] Douglas Kennedy Trial Opens in Mount Kisco with Clashes [UPDATE]

The Douglas Kennedy trial opened Monday with two sharply contrasting portrayals of the man. On one side: a person who disregarded orders in the hospital and rushed through with his baby. On the other: a man who calmly tried to negotiate a way to spend time with his son but became the victim of overraction by nurses.

It is now up to Mount Kisco Village Justice John Donohue to decide which protrayal suffices, as Kennedy faces charges of child endangerment, a misdemeanor, and harassment, a violation, in connection with his moving of newborn son, Bo, from Northern Westchester Hospital Center's maternity ward in Mount Kisco.

Both sides were adamant in their portrayals.

"No one has informed him of any hospital policy that would prohibit him from taking his son outside," said Kennedy attorney Celia Gordon in an opening statement.

Gordon argued that the hospital's transport policy, which requires movement in a bassinet or isolette through the premises, does not apply in the case of a parent trying to take his child out for fresh air as Kennedy conveyed was his right on the night of Jan. 7, 2012. She also argued that Kennedy was reasonable and calm during his dialogue with staff at the nurses' station, but that Lane escalated the situation when she arrived without prior knowledge of Kennedy's request.

Additionally, Gordon blasted the nurses, Anna Lane and Cari Luciano, who were involved in alleged altercations with Kennedy as he moved with Bo through a stairwell door on the third floor. She argued that evidence from video footage shows he was able to get past Lane, who accused him of forcing twisting her limb to remove it from the door knob, without such a need. Gordon then argued that an alleged scuffle between Kennedy and Luciano, who then responded after he was going through the stairwell, was a natural thing and not intentional on Kennedy's part as a knee-jerk defense of his son.

"What happened next was instinctual," she said, adding that Kennedy did not intend to kick or harass Luciano. Kennedy is accused of deliberately acting in the alleged scuffle. Gordon argues that Kennedy calmly traveled through the building.

Gordan made the situation personal, accusing the nurses of being liars and interested in a monetary payoff, citing a proposed settlement that was obtained earlier this month by the press.

Amy Puerto, one of two prosecutors handling the case, argued that it was Kennedy who overreacted. She described Kennedy as defying Lane's order against moving Bo, and how she blocked him as he was attempting to use an elevator by holding down the open button. Puerto then described Kennedy's subsequent attempt to head for the stairwell "with some kind of bizarre desperation."

During this time, Puerto asserted, nurses panicked over the state of the baby. Kennedy was then caught by a security guard, she claimed, and responded "do you know who I am?"

Lane, who testified, was the most signficant witness of the day. She kept composed until she was asked to recall the alleged limb twisting, which led her to sob.

Lane was asked by Robert Gottlieb, Kennedy's other lawyer, about the March settlement proposal and its terms, including a monetary payment to each nurse commensurate with injury. While Lane acknowleged that a settlement was proposed, she was adament that she was not simply looking for money, which is what the defense alleges.

Telling Gottlieb, Lane replied that she was "offended by even talks of settlement."

When the prosuection brought up the accusation, Lane also denied it. Asked what she wanted from Kenney, Lane replied: "an apology."

Both sides sparred over which codes were called for in the situation: purple, which signals a person who needs to be calmed down, and pink, which deals with child abduction. Two witnesses were called so far Monday: Eric Hartmann, the hospital's director of fire safety and security, and Angela Adamo, a charge nurse present on the incident's night. 

It was acknowledged by witnesses that Lane ordered the hospital to go to each code. Marsha Semple, a concierge whose duties included oversight of registrations and checking out, testified that she then made the calls on the phone system for each code.

Gordan went over a dispatch call that Hartmann made to Mount Kisco police after the altercation was over, in which it appeared that he did not view the problem with a major sense of urgency. However, it was also noted during the trial that the information Hartmann had was still not fully detailed, and the prosecution questioned the relevance of asking him about what he recalled.

Adamo said that, when speaking with Kennedy about his request to move Bo, she wanted to de-escalate the situation and to prevent him from leaving.

"I was trying to do anything so they would not leave the unit," she said. Adamo cited safety concerns over the potential for Bo getting hurt or sick.

"The baby was not appropriately dressed," she added. Adamo told Puerto that Kennedy was not given permission to leave.

Adamo said that she called a code pink after hearing a woman shout "he's taking the baby!"

Gottlieb got her to acknowledge that he did not raise his voice during the incident, and she acknowledged that he kept a calm demeanor during his talk at a nurses' station. However, when examined by the prosection, she argued that he was not polite.

"His answers were a little short and snippy," she said.

Lane testified that Kennedy raised his voice during the scuffle.

Gottlieb, after finding out that Adamo's supervisor did not come to the scene after she initially contacted her, argued that it is a sign that the incident was not viewed as an emergency.

The Letter of the Law (and Policy) 

In its defense, Kennedy's team aggressively sough to parse out the technicalities of both the charges he faces and of the hospital's policy for moving infants. 

The strategy is key to the defense. Kennedy's team argues that he did not break the harassment law because he did not act intentionally in the alleged altercation with the nurses. The argument against child welfare endangerment was that Kennedy did not knowingly act in a way that was injurious to the baby. On the contrary, as the defense stated, Bo was fine.

Upon asking questions from Adamo regarding the letter of the transportant policy - they included her acknowledging the bassinet is used for hallway transportation and the isolette is for department to department - he argued that there was nothing specifically denying Kennedy from moving Bo through the building.

Gottlieb also argued that Bo was healthy - he was stayed in the hospital to be breastfed by his mother, Molly, who was recovering from a C-section - even if he had not been discharged.

After a break from the trial, Assistant District Attorney Amy Puerto asked Adamo whether it mattered if a baby is healthy as a factor in moving it.

"No, because no babies leave the unit," Adamo replied.

She also explained that, when it comes to taking babies off of the floor, that applies to family members acting as well.

Gottlieb argued that violating hospital policy and breaking the law are not one in the same. 

"This is the philosophy of the hospital," he said.

Trial May Last for Days

The trial could go on for several days, Gottlieb confirmed Monday morning. It appears that more witnesses will be called, including Luciano and a supervisor of the nurses. Day 2 in the trial starts at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

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