Mary Kerry Kennedy (born September 8, 1959) is an American human rights activist and writer. She is the seventh child and third daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel. During her 15-year marriage to now-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, she was known as Kerry Kennedy Cuomo from 1991 to 2003. She is the president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. She is also a niece of the late President John F. Kennedy and United States Senator Ted Kennedy, and a cousin of former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver, the former wife of actor, bodybuilder, and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her maternal grandfather is Great Lakes Carbon Corporation founder George Skakel.
Kennedy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008
|Born||Mary Kerry Kennedy
September 8, 1959
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Education||Brown University (A.B.)
Boston College (J.D.)
(m. 1990; div. 2005)
Kennedy was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Three days after her birth, her father resigned as chief counsel of the Senate Rackets Committee. Her father was assassinated in 1968. She is a graduate of The Putney School and Brown University and received her J.D. from Boston College Law School.
Since 1981, Kennedy has worked as a human rights activist, leading delegations into places such as El Salvador, Gaza, Haiti, Kenya, Northern Ireland, and South Korea She was also involved in causes in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Sudan, and Pakistan.
She became president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights (now Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights) in 1988 and was the Executive Director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial until 1995. She is the Honorary President of the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation of Europe, based in Florence (Italy). She is also the chair of the Amnesty International Leadership Council, and has been published in The Boston Globe, The Chicago Sun-Times, and The New York Times.
Kennedy also travels the country giving speeches and presentations and calling on her audiences to stand up and fight against human rights violations.
Kennedy is the author of Being Catholic Now, Prominent Americans talk about Change in the Church and the Quest for Meaning. The book includes essays from prominent Catholics, including Nancy Pelosi, Cokie Roberts, Cardinal McCarrick, Sister Joan Chittister, Tom Monaghan, Bill O'Reilly, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Doug Brinkley and others.
Kennedy's life has been devoted to equal justice, to the promotion and protection of basic rights, and to the preservation of the rule of law. Kennedy is the president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. She started working in the field of human rights in 1981 as an intern with Amnesty International, where she investigated abuses committed by U.S. immigration officials against refugees from El Salvador.
For over thirty years, she has worked on diverse human rights issues such as children's rights, child labor, disappearances, indigenous land rights, judicial independence, freedom of expression, ethnic violence, impunity, and the environment. She has concentrated specifically on women's rights, particularly honor killings, sexual slavery, domestic violence, workplace discrimination, and sexual assault. She has worked in over 60 countries and led hundreds of human rights delegations.
Kennedy established RFK Center Partners for Human Rights in 1986 to ensure the protection of rights codified under the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. RFK Partners provides support to courageous human rights defenders around the world. The Center uncovers human rights abuses like torture, repression of free speech and child labor; urges Congress and the U.S. administration to highlight human rights in foreign policy; and supplies activists with the resources they need to advance their work. Kennedy also founded RFK Compass, which works on sustainable investing with leaders in the financial community. She started the RFK Training Institute in Florence, Italy, which offers courses of study to leading human rights defenders across the globe.
Kennedy is the author of Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World, which features interviews with human rights activists including Marian Wright Edelman, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, and more. This book has been translated into 6 languages, with more coming, and has been adapted into a play by Ariel Dorfman. It also is the foundation for the RFK Center's Speak Truth To Power program - a multi-faceted global initiative that uses the experiences of courageous defenders from around the world to educate students and others about human rights, and urge them to take action. The curriculum focuses on issues ranging from slavery and environmental activism to religious self-determination and political participation 
Kennedy has appeared numerous times on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and PBS as well as on networks in countries around the world, and her commentaries and articles have been published in The Boston Globe, The Chicago Sun-Times, L'Unita, The Los Angeles Times, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Página/12, TV Guide, and the Yale Journal of International Law. As a special correspondent for the environmental magazine television program, Network Earth, she reported on human rights and the environment. She interviewed human rights leaders for Voice of America.
Kennedy is Chair of the Amnesty International USA Leadership Council. Nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate, she serves on the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace, as well as Human Rights First, and Inter Press Service (Rome, Italy). She is a patron of the Bloody Sunday Trust (Northern Ireland) and serves on the Editorial Board of Advisors of the Buffalo Human Rights Law Review. She is on the Advisory Committee for the International Campaign for Tibet, the Committee on the Administration of Justice of Northern Ireland, the Global Youth Action Network, Studies without Borders and several other organizations. She serves on the leadership council of the Amnesty International Campaign to Stop Violence Against Women and on the Advisory Board of the Albert Schweitzer Institute and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center's National Advisory Council.
Kennedy was named Woman of the Year 2001 by Save the Children, Humanitarian of the Year Award from the South Asian Media Awards Foundation, and the Prima Donna Award from Montalcino Vineyards. In 2008, she received the Eleanor Roosevelt Medal of Honor and the Thomas More Award from Boston College Law School. World Vision and International AIDS Trust gave her the 2009 Human Rights Award.
She has received awards from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (for leadership in abolishing the death penalty), the American Jewish Congress of the Metropolitan Region, and the Institute for the Italian American experience three I's award for outstanding efforts and achievements for human rights.
Lawyers for Ecuadorean plaintiffs in the long-running lawsuit against Chevron Corporation for environmental and human health damages at the Lago Agrio oil field hired Kennedy to conduct public relations for their cause. She traveled to Ecuador in 2009, after which she blasted Chevron in an article for the Huffington Post. Neither her Huffington Post piece nor the news coverage of her advocacy disclosed that she was being paid by the plaintiffs, a fact not made public until 2012. The plaintiffs' lead American lawyer reportedly paid Kennedy $50,000 in February 2010, and the plaintiffs' law firm budgeted $10,000 per month for her services, plus $40,000 in expenses in June 2010. Kennedy was also reportedly given a 0.25 percent share of any money collected from Chevron, worth US$40 million if the full amount were to be collected. Kennedy responded that she was "paid a modest fee for the time I spent on the case," but denied that she had any financial interest in the outcome.
Kennedy holds honorary doctorates of law from Le Moyne College and University of San Francisco Law School, and of Human Letters from Bay Path College and the Albany College of Pharmacy. She is also a member of the Massachusetts and District of Columbia bar associations.
On June 9, 1990, she married Andrew Cuomo at age 30 in the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, DC. They had three daughters: twins, Cara Ethel Kennedy-Cuomo and Mariah Matilda Kennedy-Cuomo (born January 11, 1995), and Michaela Andrea Kennedy-Cuomo (born August 26, 1997). Kennedy and Cuomo divorced in 2005.
In July 2012, Kennedy allegedly sideswiped a tractor trailer driven by Rocco Scuiletti on Interstate 684 in Westchester County. On the morning of July 13, 2012, Kennedy was found in her white Lexus. A police report said Kennedy had trouble speaking, was swaying and told an officer that she may have accidentally taken a sleeping pill earlier that day. In a court appearance on July 17, 2012, Kennedy said local hospital tests found no traces of drugs and that her doctor believed she had suffered a seizure. Kennedy pleaded not guilty to driving while impaired. Scuiletti was charged by state police with leaving the scene of an accident. A toxicology report filed on July 25, 2012, said zolpidem was found in a sample of her blood taken when Kennedy was arrested, at which point Kennedy released a statement saying in part, "The results we received today from the Westchester County lab showed trace amounts of a sleep aid in my system, so it now appears that my first instinct was correct. I am deeply sorry to all those I endangered that day, and am enormously grateful for the support I have received over the past two weeks." Kennedy said she did not remember anything after entering a highway to go to a gym and before she found herself at a traffic light with a police officer at her door.
On January 23, 2014, Judge Robert Neary ruled that the drugged-driving case against Kennedy would move forward. The judge acknowledged that she was "not a typical criminal defendant. She has achieved a great deal and is dedicated to good works." Despite this, the judge said dismissal might lead the public to believe "that there are two justice systems: one for the rich and powerful, and one for everybody else." On February 20, 2014, jury selection for her trial began. Kennedy was not present, and was instead in Brussels and the Western Sahara conducting human rights advocacy. Sixty-two people were interviewed for the six-person panel. Kennedy's sister Rory testified that she had "a reputation for sobriety and general healthy living." Both Rory and their mother Ethel were present in the courtroom during the trial. Ethel was pushed in a wheelchair inside the Westchester County Courthouse and was accompanied by her sons Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Douglas Harriman Kennedy. Kennedy's attorney Gerald Lefcourt told jurors that while she did not expect her famous name to give her any advantages, Kennedy should not be punished for it either. Kennedy admitted to having been in a car wreck 18 months before the incident, as well as suffering a head injury that required medication.
Kennedy was acquitted of the charges on February 28, 2014. "You have to wonder why this ill-advised prosecution was brought," Lefcourt said after the verdict. "Was it because of who the defendant is? They concede it was accidental and nevertheless pursued this case. I find this very depressing." Prosecutors however defended their actions. "We prosecute 2,500 impaired driving cases annually in Westchester County. This case was treated no differently from any of the others," Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for the Westchester County District Attorney said. On March 3, 2014, Kennedy appeared on NBC's Today and criticized Westchester County for prosecuting "people who the district attorney and police believe to be innocent of the crime, simply because of county protocol requiring all cases to be pursued." While insisting that being a member of the Kennedy family had nothing to do with the jury's verdict, she did mention the Criminal Justice Act and its 50th anniversary, which she said "my father passed as Attorney General to assure access to counsel for indigent criminal defendants."
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