- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2006

Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy yesterday blamed his early-morning car crash on a “chronic” addiction to pain pills before announcing he is re-entering drug rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic — his third treatment since Christmas.

The Rhode Island Democrat and son of Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts said he didn’t remember driving into a security barrier near the Capitol Thursday, but that he had taken Phenergan, a sedative for stomach pain, and Ambien, a sleeping pill.

“I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police, or being cited for three driving infractions,” Mr. Kennedy, 38, said during a brief press conference.

Asked if he will resign, Mr. Kennedy responded: “No, I need to stay in the fight.”

The police report says Mr. Kennedy’s “eyes were red and watery, speech was slightly slurred, and upon exiting his vehicle, his balance was unsure.” When questioned about the 2:45 a.m. Thursday accident, Mr. Kennedy said he was “headed to the Capitol to make a vote,” the report said.

He was cited for three traffic infractions, but not for driving under the influence. The report said he nearly struck a police cruiser before hitting the barrier.

Lou Cannon, president of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, said one of the officers smelled alcohol on the congressman’s breath, but that the officer was ordered by a superior not to test the congressman for alcohol levels. Mr. Kennedy was driven home by police officers.

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

A Breathalyzer test was not conducted, and officers in their report 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,” or “other.”

Capitol Police yesterday said the investigation is ongoing.

The congressman’s father issued a statement saying he was proud of his son for admitting his problem and taking steps to correct it.

“He has taken full responsibility for events that occurred, and he will continue to cooperate fully with any investigation,” the elder Mr. Kennedy said.

The congressman said he admitted himself to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., 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,” said Mr. Kennedy, who has been open about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

He also said: “The reoccurrence of an addiction problem can be triggered by things that happen in everyday life, such as taking a common treatment for a stomach flu. That’s not an excuse for what happened Wednesday evening, but it is a reality of fighting a chronic condition for which I’m taking full responsibility.”

The Providence Journal reported last month that Mr. Kennedy was involved in a two-car crash April 8 at 10 a.m. in Portsmouth, R.I. He was charged at the scene of the accident for “failure to keep in proper lane,” “unreasonable speed,” and “failure to give full time and attention to operation of vehicle.”

On Thursday morning, Mr. Kennedy was driving at a high rate of speed without his car’s headlights on, 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 police 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 said.

In 2000, Mr. Kennedy was accused of pushing an elderly female security guard at Los Angeles International Airport. He was not charged and reached a civil settlement with the guard.

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

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