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Friday, May 05, 2006 

Like Father, Like Son

Rep. Kennedy's Car Crashes Near Capitol

Officers Accuse Supervisors of Preventing Thorough Investigation


By Del Quentin Wilber and Allan Lengel

Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy crashed his car into a security barrier near the Capitol early yesterday, and officers at the scene suspected that he might have been intoxicated, a police union official said.

Kennedy (D-R.I.) issued a statement late last night -- his second in several hours -- saying he had been disoriented after taking prescription drugs: Phenergan for gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, and Ambien, a sleeping medication.

"Following the last series of votes on Wednesday evening, I returned to my home on Capitol Hill and took the prescribed amount" of the two medications, the 38-year-old congressman said.

"Sometime around 2:45 a.m., I drove the few blocks to the Capitol Complex believing I needed to vote," the statement continued. "Apparently, I was disoriented from the medication. . . . At no time before the incident did I consume any alcohol."

Kennedy, a six-term congressman, said that Capitol Police officers told him to park his Ford Mustang and drove him home. "At no time did I ask for any special consideration," the statement said. "I simply complied with what the officers asked me to do."

Lou Cannon, president of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, expressed skepticism.

"The timeliness of the statement says everything," he said. "It took up to 10 o clock," or 19 hours after the 2:50 a.m. incident, to offer the expanded explanation.

U.S. Capitol Police released few details and would not even confirm that Kennedy had been in the accident in the 100 block of C Street SE, outside the Cannon House Office Building.

Within hours of the crash, however, the union representing Capitol Police officers provided its version of events and suggested that Kennedy, the son of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), had received special treatment.

Earlier yesterday, Cannon said officers at the scene thought Kennedy was staggering and might have been intoxicated. They called for supervisors over the radio, and the supervisors drove Kennedy home, he said.

Cannon said officers were upset that supervisors prevented them from conducting a more thorough investigation, which might have included sobriety tests. "The officers just want to be able to do their jobs," he said.

He said if officers had administered a breath test for alcohol, "that certainly would have showed he wasn't on anything, wouldn't it?"

Police sources said officers noticed Kennedy's Mustang shortly before the crash because he nearly drove head-on into a Capitol Police car. The Mustang's lights were off, the sources said. The officer turned his patrol car around to pursue Kennedy, whose car then crashed into the barrier, the sources said.

When police approached, the sources said, Kennedy got out of his car and said he was late for a vote. The House had not been in session for hours.

Cannon said the union's bargaining committee delivered a letter yesterday to acting Capitol Police Chief Christopher M. McGaffin protesting the handling of the matter.

Terrance W. Gainer, who recently stepped down as chief, said he had spoken to some officers who were upset about the incident.

"It's always a tough situation when an officer has to take law enforcement action with members of Congress," Gainer said. "But the rules are very clear. If there's a violation of the law, you treat everybody equally."

In his first prepared statement, issued about 6 p.m., Kennedy simply confirmed the accident and said that he hadn't consumed alcohol and that he planned to cooperate with police in any investigation.

In his statement late last night, the congressman added that he had "contacted the Chief of the Capitol police and offered to meet with police representatives at their earliest convenience."

There is just something about these guys and booze and cars!

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