Kennedy, Kopechne and the Chappy Cover-Up
Getting the justice you can afford — how Ted Kennedy buried manslaughter charges.
“If the people are capable of understanding, seeing and feeling the differences between true and false, right and wrong, virtue and vice, to what better principle can the friends of mankind apply than to the sense of this difference?” —John Adams 1775
I attended a general admission movie last weekend, “Chappaquiddick,” first time in five years (my wife claims 10). [Applause]
While I have attended opening events for good films, in my opinion there are few that merit the commute and expense of theater viewing rather than streaming it a couple months later in the comfort of our family room. Many other folks clearly agree, given that theater attendance was at a 25-year low in 2017, along with Academy Award viewership.
However, I don’t regret attending this movie, as I’m both familiar with the Kennedy political dynasty, and the Dike Bridge death on Chappaquiddick Island, which almost ended that dynasty.
Not long after Ted Kennedy’s Chappy manslaughter cover-up, I worked the summer before college at the exclusive Edgartown Yacht Club on Martha’s Vineyard. One summer was more than enough on that wealthy leftist glitterati playground — a place that remains a favorite resort destination of Demo-party protagonists, including the Obama and Clinton clans.
So here’s a little teaser about an event that also shaped my perspective on Chappaquiddick: Ted Kennedy buried a drunken manslaughter conviction in Edgartown, but I was arrested and jailed for an open beer! (If you’re interested in the latter, see the addendum below.)
Allow me to offer some insights on how the film portrayed an incident that should have ended the Kennedy political dynasty, but did not, because of their corrupt Massachusetts Democrat Party machine and the voters whose blind allegiance they commanded — and still do.
Ted Kennedy was 30 years old when he first entered the Senate, the minimum age prescribed by our Constitution for that once-august body. He inherited the seat following the November 1962 “special election” to fill the vacant seat held by his brother, John, whose presidential election had been crafted by “Old Joe” Kennedy. Ted was elected to a full six-year term in 1964 and re-elected in a 1970 landslide, just one year after the Chappaquiddick whitewash. Massachusetts Democrats would repeat that offense six more times, and the “Lion of the Senate” remained in office for 47 years until his death in August 2009 — becoming the fourth-longest continuously serving senator in U.S. history.
That was 40 years after Mary Jo Kopechne was buried, along with certainty of manslaughter charges against Kennedy for her death.
The movie “Chappaquiddick” accurately depicts the record of that night and the conspiracy to conceal the facts in the ensuing hours, days, weeks and years. It was a fair treatment of the conspiracies and lies that were undertaken to protect Kennedy’s political ambitions. It took half a century to bring the Kennedy conspiracy to the big screen, but I’m frankly surprised it would make it through the Hollywood PC censors even after 50 years.
Here are the details … according to the record, and portrayed in the film.
On Friday night, July 18, 1969, then-Senate Majority Whip Edward “Teddy” Kennedy, the youngest senator to ever hold that position of power, was at a party with Kennedy campaign “Boiler Room Girls” on the small island of Chappaquiddick across from Edgartown harbor. The Kennedys were notorious philanderers, and on this night Teddy’s pregnant wife Joan was home at their Kennedy Cape compound while he was out carousing.
At 11:30, he left the party inebriated with a 28-year-old campaign assistant, Mary Jo Kopechne. En route to a beach where he intended to “party,” he drove his car off the side of the small Dike Bridge that crosses tide-swept Poucha Pond to a vacant beach. Kennedy’s car overturned in a few feet of water, trapping Kopechne, who died of asphyxiation hours later after depleting the oxygen in the air pocket she occupied in the back of the car.
Kennedy claimed he made several attempts to rescue Kopechne prior to walking back to their Chappaquiddick party house. He passed four residences on the way, where he could have called for help, but didn’t. Upon arriving at the party house, he summoned his cousin Joseph Gargan and former Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Paul Markham, and together they hatched the cover-up.
Gargan and Markham escorted their benefactor Teddy to the Chappaquiddick ferry landing, where he either swam or they boated him the few hundred feet to Edgartown harbor landing.
Once back at his small Edgartown hotel, Kennedy sobered up for ten hours before reporting the incident to police (by which time his car had already been discovered). He was able, thus, to avoid manslaughter prosecution for driving while intoxicated — and avoid the end of his political career.
He and his political handlers conjured up a claim that he hadn’t reported the incident right away due to confusion caused by a concussion — though there was no evidence to support that. Then he decided to strap on a neck brace, until they determined the public wouldn’t buy it. Then they considered claiming that Kopechne was driving, that Kennedy was actually the victim, but that option was rejected.
Soon after Mary Jo’s body was recovered, it was quickly sent, without autopsy, back to her parents’ hometown, where she was buried.
As for the cause of her death, experienced Edgartown Fire Rescue diver John Farrar, who recovered Kopechne’s body, testified, “She didn’t drown. She died of suffocation in her own air void. It took her at least three or four hours to die. I could have had her out of that car 25 minutes after I got the call. But [Kennedy] didn’t call.”
During the “investigation” in the days that followed her death, Kennedy issued a statement that he left the party as a favor to Kopechne, because as he put it, “she was desirous of leaving, if I would be kind enough to drop her back at her hotel.” But Kopechne didn’t tell any of the other Boiler Room Girls that she was leaving, and she left her purse and hotel key at the party house.
On July 25, after a lot of political machinations, Kennedy appeared at Edgartown courthouse and pleaded guilty to “leaving the scene of an accident.” His family attorneys argued that any jail sentence should be suspended. Nobody was shocked when the prosecutors and Judge James Boyle agreed, and Kennedy’s two-month incarceration sentence, the statutory minimum, was suspended.
At 7:30 that evening, Kennedy delivered a prepared speech to a televised network audience. In his remarks, he claimed to the nation that there was “no truth whatever to the widely circulated suspicions of immoral conduct,” that he “was not driving under the influence of liquor,” and that he had “all kinds of scrambled thoughts” including “whether some awful curse actually did hang over all the Kennedys.”
But it wasn’t the “Kennedy curse” in this case, it was the curse Teddy Kennedy.
He then looked into the camera and said in third person, with all the sincerity of a generationally seasoned method actor:
“If at any time the citizens of Massachusetts should lack confidence in their senator’s character or his ability, with or without justification, he could not in my opinion adequately perform his duties and should not continue in office.”
He concluded, “The opportunity to work with you and serve Massachusetts has made my life worthwhile. So I ask you tonight, the people of Massachusetts, to think this through with me. In facing this decision, I seek your advice and opinion. In making it I seek your prayers.”
Kennedy’s faux appeal for prayers notwithstanding, apparently, his life was more “worthwhile” than that of Mary Jo.
Following his remarks, predictably the dynasty’s sycophantic devotees showered him with support.
Notably, a week after the conclusion of the inquest and the suspended sentence, Leslie Leland, foreman of the grand jury convened to consider Kennedy’s crime, told the local Vineyard Gazette, “I think that we were manipulated and I think that we were blocked from doing our job, and if you want to use the term cover-up, then okay, that’s what it was. … There seem to be two sets of rules and justices that are doled out — one for the rich and powerful, and one for the regular people, for you and me.” He later gave a televised interview about the coverup.
As previously noted, Massachusetts Demos handed Kennedy a landslide re-election in 1970, a year after Mary Jo’s death.
However, in 1980, despite Kennedy’s command over Massachusetts voters, Democrats across the nation rejected his presidential challenge to then-incumbent Jimmy Carter, who was then resoundingly defeated that November by Ronald Reagan.
But Kennedy would have his revenge. Between 2004 and 2008, Ted Kennedy and his Massachusetts leftist understudy, John Kerry, were most directly responsible for elevating an unknown community organizer, Barack Obama, to the presidency.
The systemic Teflon shield that Kennedy perfected has endured well beyond his death, as is evident in the near-ascension to the presidency of Hillary Clinton, the party’s profoundly corrupt 2016 nominee.
Among the disgraceful Bay State memorials to Teddy is the $38 million taxpayer-funded Kennedy Institute in Boston.
Astoundingly, the Democrat Party and its MSM propaganda machine are now trying to revive the Kennedy dynasty by promoting Rep. Joe Kennedy III, Ted Kennedy’s great-nephew, to national status. Recall that it was this latest iteration of the dullard Kennedy clan who droned on through a dry response to Donald Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address. Trump’s address that night was titled “Our New American Moment,” but there’s nothing new about Joe Kennedy.
Oh, and about that “open beer” addendum…
Unlike Ted Kennedy, on another Friday summer’s eve when I was working on the island a few years after his DUI manslaughter subterfuge, I WAS arrested and JAILED by the Edgartown police on an alcohol charge. That arrest was in connection with defending my older sister’s honor after some local jerk yelled at her when she was crossing a town street — very pregnant with her first child and with her leashed lab puppy.
Later that evening, the same jerk cruised slowly down the dirt alley by my sister’s little rental house — and I spotted him from her side yard. Of course, I yelled the same words at him he had yelled at her earlier that day. That was followed by a chorus of the same words from the cottage windows, compliments of a few of her husband’s ice hockey teammates.
The offender slammed on his car brakes and backed up to the yard gate where I was standing (with a Black Label beer in my hand — I was 18 and of legal age then). He jumped from his vehicle and stormed by me into the house, where there was a verbal confrontation. He then exited by me through the gate.
We had a few “words,” at which time he grabbed my right arm. I was 6'4" and weighed well over two bills — in response, I slung my arm around, connecting my elbow with his face, and putting him on his, uh, rear. It was only then, as he was getting up from the ground, that “the jerk” pulled a badge from his back pocket, identified himself as an Edgartown police officer, and arrested me for having an “open alcohol container in public.” (I should note here that he shoved me into “public” on his exit through the gate.)
He called for backup, put me in the back seat of his unmarked car and, much to the distress of my sister, off her younger brother went to be booked and locked up in the old Edgartown jail. Soon thereafter, the aforementioned hockey players showed up under the open jail window in the cell I was occupying, and as they were full of Black Label beer themselves, began serenading me with a spiritual — “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” They were more amused than was I.
Soon thereafter, I was released from jail with an order to appear in the old courthouse the following week for sentencing — the same courthouse where Kennedy’s sentence had been suspended.
I arrived for that hearing with my key witness, my sweet expecting sister, who, from the witness stand, tearfully delivered her emotional account of being verbally assaulted by the arresting officer on the day of my incarceration.
“Tearfully” is the key word here.
I knew the winds of justice were turning in my favor when the judge turned to the arresting officer and scornfully asked, “Is this true? Did you yell at this young woman in the middle of our town, and call her a ‘—k’?” He admitted he had and … case dismissed.
Apparently in Edgartown, it all boils down to how much justice one can afford, or how many tears a young expectant mother can shed!
For the record, later that week I put my Chevy truck on the two-car barge for the one-minute ride from Edgartown to Chappaquiddick. Late that night, I drove out to Dike Bridge with friends and successfully crossed without incident. That was before the guardrails had been installed and when there was still clear evidence of the damage done to the bridge by the undercarriage of Kennedy’s car as it plunged over the side.
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Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776