July 13, 2006 -- -- Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) pleaded guilty today to driving under the influence of prescription drugs after a late-night car accident last month.
Kennedy was ordered to pay a $250 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington and a $100 fine to the Victims of Crime Fund, as well as serve 50 hours of community service with the boys and girls club.
Kennedy will also serve 12 months probation along with attending weekly meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and a recovery group facilitated by his physician at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
Kennedy was apologetic speaking to cameras outside the court.
"I always said that I wanted to take full responsibility for my actions. Today in court, I did just that," he said.
In front of the cameras, Kennedy also unexpectedly introduced his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn). Ramstad explained how he had a "wake-up call" similar to Kennedy's 25 years ago .
"I am a recovering alcoholic pleased to be a sponsor for Patrick Kennedy," Rep. Ramstad said. "I'm grateful he has accepted his addiction and he is going to be just fine one day at a time."
Ramstad has been a leader in Congress on addiction issues and speaks openly about his recovery to educate lawmakers on the problems of addiction and the need to expand treatment.
When a reporter pressed Kennedy on the presumption that he may have an alcohol problem in addition to a prescription drug abuse problem, AA sponsor Ramstad said "the AA program is for people recovering from all types of addictions, not just alcoholics."
Kennedy has repeatedly said he did not drink alcohol before the car accident, and he was disoriented from two prescription medications: Ambien and Phenergan. Police on the scene said he appeared to be intoxicated; however, no sobriety tests were conducted that night to prove he had been drinking.
Attorney General Spokesman Traci Hughes said "there wasn't enough evidence to charge Kennedy on a DUI of alcohol."
Two charges of reckless driving and failure to exhibit a driving permit were dismissed by the government in exchange for the guilty plea. But Magistrate Judge Aida Melendez wasn't completely satisfied with the plea deal between Kennedy and the government and therefore imposed a $300 fine and 10 days in jail if Kennedy breaks his 12 month probation.