- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2006

[5:14 p.m.]

One day after crashing his car into a security barrier near the Capitol, Rep. Patrick Kennedy told reporters today that he is a “chronic addict” and that he will check himself into the Mayo Clinic tonight for rehabilitation.

The Rhode Island Democrat and son of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, blamed addiction to prescription drugs as the cause of an early morning accident Thursday, in which he almost struck a police cruiser.

“I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police or being cited for three driving infractions,” Mr. Kennedy said during a brief press conference.

This is not the first time this year that the congressman has been in an auto accident or received treatment for drug addiction.

Mr. Kennedy said he admitted himself to the Mayo Clinic at Christmas and later during an unspecified House recess for addiction to prescription pain medicine. In his younger years, Mr. Kennedy was treated for cocaine abuse.

“I’ve been fighting this chronic disease since I was a young man and have aggressively and periodically sought treatment so that I can live a full and productive life,” Mr. Kennedy said.

“I struggle every day with this disease, as do millions of Americans. I have dedicated my public service to raising awareness about the chronic disease of addiction and have fought to increase access to care and recovery supports for the many Americans forced to struggle on their own,” he said.

The Providence Journal reported last month that Mr. Kennedy was involved in a two-car crash on April 8 at 10 a.m. in Portsmouth after making a left turn into a parking lot. His car was struck on the passenger side by a second vehicle, whose driver said he could not stop in time.

Mr. Kennedy said he had seen the car but had thought he had enough time to complete the turn.

According to a report filed by two Capitol Hill Police officers, Mr. Kennedy was charged at the scene with “failure to keep in proper lane,” “unreasonable speed” and “failure to give full time and attention to operation of vehicle.”

Mr. Kennedy was traveling at a high rate of speed without headlights through a construction area on C Street and swerving into the opposite lane. After striking the curb, Mr. Kennedy overcorrected and nearly struck the police car, the report says.

“The impact with the curb caused the vehicle to swerve back into the wrong lane of travel, thereby causing [the responding officer] to use evasive maneuvers in order to avoid a collision with the vehicle,” the report says.

The police report also says Mr. Kennedy’s “eyes were red and watery, speech was slightly slurred, and upon exiting his vehicle, his balance was unsure.” When questioned, Mr. Kennedy said he was “headed to the Capitol to make a vote,” the report says.

Officers did not administer a Breathalyzer test, and on the report, they left unchecked boxes that would indicate the driver’s condition as either “unknown,” fatigued,” “ill,” “physical defect,” “apparently asleep,” “apparently normal,” or “other.”

Also unchecked were boxes to indicate whether the driver “had not been drinking,” “had been drinking and obviously drunk,” “ability impaired,” “not impaired,” “impaired unknown,” “other.”

The president of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 later said one of the officers smelled alcohol on Mr. Kennedy’s breath but was ordered by a superior officer not to test him for alcohol levels.

The Boston Herald reports that a waitress at the Hawk and Dove, a popular Capitol Hill bar, said she had witnessed Mr. Kennedy drinking alcohol but did not know how much.

The U.S. Capitol Police report is available here.

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