The son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy began his defense today against charges that he endangered his newborn son and harassed the baby's nurses at a New York hospital earlier this year, arguing that he kicked a nurse by instinct.
Douglas Kennedy, 44, watched in court as his attorney began telling his side of the Jan. 7 incident in which Kennedy tried to take his 2-day-old son from the maternity ward at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, N.Y.
It's unclear how far he went with the baby. He has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges.
Nurses reportedly told Kennedy not to remove the baby from the ward, but he did so anyway after tussling with the nurses. The prosecution alleges that Kennedy twisted the arm of a nurse during his attempt to exit the hospital, and kicked another nurse in the abdomen when she tried to take the baby from his arms.
The altercation between Kennedy and the nurses was caught on surveillance video, which was played throughout the first day of the trial today.
Robert Gottlieb, Kennedy's attorney, argued today that the hospital had no policy banning fathers from taking their babies out of the hospital. Gottlieb also pointed out that Kennedy remained calm for much of the confrontation as he sought permission to take the baby outside while accompanied by a friend of his who is a medical doctor.
Gottlieb also referred to the kick in the abdomen as "instinctual," in terms of Kennedy's protecting his child.
During a court appearance in April, Kennedy had described the incident in terms of his own father's assassination when he was young.
"My father was taken away from me when I was a baby," Kennedy said outside the courthouse. "It is OK for a father to hold his son in his arms."
Douglas Kennedy is the 10th child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy. Robert Kennedy was shot and killed in 1968 while running for president.
Kennedy's wife, Molly, called the charges "absurd" earlier this year.
"It is sickening to think that our simple desire to take our son outside for fresh air has been warped into a charge of child endangerment," she said in a statement.
The trial is expected to last "a few days," Gottlieb said. It will be decided by a judge, not a jury.