Kerry Kennedy: Kennedy name didn’t get me acquitted

Kerry Kennedy insisted Monday that she didn’t “play the Kennedy card” in her recent trial, but rather that she was acquitted on drugged driving charges because she is innocent and had access to “competent counsel.”

“We’ve got to pass legislation which will allow people to have access to competent counsel no matter who they are,” Kennedy told Matt Lauer on “Today.”

Lauer pressed Kennedy, saying, “if your name were Kerry Jones, do you think you would have the same outcome?” Kennedy said that “so many people who have misdemeanors” cannot afford counsel and end up pleading guilty “to something that they didn’t do.”

Kennedy said that the case took 20 months to go through the legal system and cost her a week of work. “I wasn’t going to be fired from my job. And [other people facing these charges] take these pleas, which can really have a devastating impact on their lives. It can harm them in trying to seek a job, in trying to get a loan from a bank, in trying to just rent an apartment.”

Kennedy was charged with one misdemeanor charge of driving while impaired by drugs on July 13, 2012. She said she had accidentally taken an Ambien instead of a thyroid medication. Her attorneys argued she would not have been charged if she had not been part of the Kennedy family. The jury deliberated for just an hour before finding her not guilty.

A plea deal would have hurt Kennedy’s humanitarian work, she told Lauer. She is currently focused on improving the rights of migrant workers.