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Reuters, Published February 28 2014

NY jury finds Kerry Kennedy not guilty of impaired driving

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - A jury on Friday found the daughter of slain U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy not guilty of driving while impaired by drugs in a 2012 incident in which she crashed into a truck on a New York highway after mistaking a sleeping pill for another medication.

Kerry Kennedy, 54, maintained through the four-day trial at Westchester County Court in White Plains, north of New York City, that she had almost no memory of the sleeping pill kicking in as she drove erratically on the morning of July 13, 2012.

As she left the court, Kennedy stopped to say she was "unbelievably grateful" for the verdict.

Her defense team had said during the trial that Kennedy mistook the sleeping pill zolpidem, known by its brand name Ambien, for her daily thyroid medication, and that the powerful drug kicked in so suddenly she was essentially "sleep-driving."

Nobody was injured in the incident.

The prosecution conceded Kennedy took the sleeping pill accidentally, but maintained she was criminally liable because she must have become aware of the symptoms associated with its use.

After the accident, police found Kennedy slumped over the wheel of her silver Lexus and first responders initially believed that she might have suffered a seizure.

Kennedy, who is the ex-wife of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, took the stand in her own defense, saying she regretted the episode but wouldn't have continued to drive if she had realized her mistake.

A toxicology expert testified during the trial that the sleeping pill takes effect so quickly that Kennedy could have been sleep driving and unaware of her actions.