Yale history professor Paul M. Kennedy was arrested Feb. 2 after allegedly hitting a student with his car and faces five charges, including driving under the influence of a controlled substance, according to the professor’s lawyer.
Gregory J. Pepe, the defendant’s lawyer, said that the professor is innocent and that he is sure all charges will be dropped at Kennedy’s March 7 hearing.
Kennedy was not drunk at the time of the incident and the arrest was due to the police officer’s misconstruing Kennedy’s physical condition, Pepe said yesterday.
The 60-year-old professor limps because he had polio as a child, according to the lawyer.
“It’s hard to fault the police,” he said. “Under 95 percent of the circumstances, they did what was appropriate.”
Kennedy left his house around 1 a.m. the night of the incident when fellow history professor and neighbor John L. Gaddis called asking him to check up on his wife, Gaddis told the Yale Daily News (YDN).
“I was out of town, the phone at my house wasn’t working, and professor Kennedy, a very good neighbor, got up in the middle of the night to check to see that everything was all right,” Gaddis wrote in an e-mail, according to the YDN.
Although Gaddis’ and Kennedy’s backyards are connected, Kennedy decided to drive around the block to check on his neighbor’s home, according to Pepe.
“He didn’t know what to expect,” Pepe said. “He wanted to drive around and shine his headlights on the house. As he was driving, he was trying to look out the windshield and he hit a parked car.”
Stepping out of the parked car was graduate student Marisa W. Green, who was returning to her house, according to Pepe. Green only sustained a few minor bruises and was released from the hospital the same day, Pepe said.
He denied that alcohol was involved in the accident.
“The professor had polio as a young boy, so he has a very uneven gait,” Pepe said. “He is often in a great deal of pain and has had multiple surgeries to correct the situation. A police officer saw a man walking very unsteadily and probably thought he was intoxicated.”
He added that he is sure blood tests for other substances—the results of which have not yet been released—will be negative.
“Dr. Kennedy was given a breathalyzer test and no alcohol was detected,” Yale University spokeswoman Helaine S. Klasky wrote in an e-mail yesterday.
Kennedy was additionally charged with illegally operating a motor vehicle while under suspension, illegally operating a motor vehicle without insurance, following too closely, and operating an unregistered motor vehicle, charges which Pepe said were due to glitches in the system.
Kennedy was, in fact, insured and registered at the time of the accident, Pepe said.
“Kennedy has had registration insurance and a license for as long as I’ve known him,” he said.
Kennedy—who is J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History at Yale—is an internationally acclaimed scholar who has authored 13 books, one of which has been translated into more than 20 languages.
“Had this not been someone who was this famous, it would be a non-story,” said Pepe. “I’d be interested to know how many other people that night were involved in accidents.”
—Staff writer Anna L. Tong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.