Saturday, July 18, 2009
40 years after Chappaquiddick
Today is the 40th anniversary of the "Chappaquiddick Incident". On the evening of July 18, 1969 Ted Kennedy left a party with a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne. What happened next is a little sketchy, because only one person in the car lived to tell the story. What we do know is that the car driven by Ted Kennedy went off a bridge and ended up upside down in Poucha Pond. Ted Kennedy escaped the car, Ms. Kopechne did not. Senator Kennedy then went back to the party to "get help" after passing several houses with telephones from which he could have called for help. Unable to rescue Ms. Kopechne, Senator Kennedy returned to his hotel and collapsed. No one at this point had called the authorities. In fact they were not contacted until the next morning when some fishermen discovered the car and the police traced it back to Kennedy.
Kennedy admitted his culpability in the events and through his influence and family name got a suspended sentence. He went on serving in the Senate with many questions unanswered. He claims he wasn't drinking and did not have a relationship with Ms. Kopechne. He claims he was in shock and that is why he didn't call for help or perhaps that an aide was going to handle calling the police. How long did Ms. Kopechne live in the submerged car before drowning and was drowning really the cause of her death? We will never know because this investigation was closed and forgotten by and large a long time ago.
Forty years later, Ted Kennedy is still a U.S. Senator and has essentially gotten off unpunished. His only real penalty was that he was unable to make a successful run for the Presidency.
The lesson here is that if you have enough money and come from an influential enough family, you can get away with a lot. Perhaps even manslaughter.