JANUARY 15, 2008
The mother of the young woman killed in the car that Senator Ted Kennedy recklessly drove off a bridge died this week and, not surprisingly, the veteran Massachusetts Democrat is avoiding the media like the plague.
Mary Jo Kopechne was a 28-year-old Democratic campaign worker when she drowned in Kennedy’s car after the senator drove it into a pond in Chappaquiddick, east of Martha’s Vineyard nearly four decades ago. Kennedy had an expired license and, as was customary for him, he had been drinking at a party before leaving with the young woman.
Kennedy escaped the accident unscathed but left his young lady friend to drown in the car’s back seat. He later pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a crime but only got a slap on the hand, a two-month suspended jail sentence. Many believe he escaped justice, which is why the tragedy at Chappaquiddick has been called the most brilliant cover-up ever achieved in a nation where investigative procedures are well developed.
Two decades after the horrific event more light was shed on the cover-up when the foreman of the grand jury that investigated the accident, came forward and confessed that the panel was pressured by a judge and a prosecutor not to pursue the case. The foreman said the jury was manipulated and blocked from doing its job.
Regardless of this shameful event, Kennedy remains a fixture in the U.S. Senate. He usually loves the media, but made sure to avoid reporters when Gwen Kopechne died this week in a Plains Township nursing home. She was 89 and never got over the death of her only daughter.
While Chappaquiddick ranks among Kennedy’s biggest scandals, the senator’s storied political career features many more. There is even a website completely dedicated to all of Kennedy’s scandals. The Chappaquiddick section is especially informative and includes a time line, illustrations, maps and police documents from the tragic 1969 event. It also details Kennedy’s record of serious traffic violations and negligent driving in the years leading up to the incident.
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