Political campaign specialist Mary Jo Kopechne dies in a car accident in Chappaquiddick. She was a passenger to Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). Kennedy escaped the vehicle, but left Kopechne behind to drown.
Next, instead of reporting the issue to the authorities, he went back to his hotel and went to sleep, before complaining to the hotel owner at 3 am of being awakened by a noisy party.
He didn’t report the incident until after the car and Kopechne’s body were discovered.
According to Ed Klein of the New York Times, later in his life, Kennedy was fond of asking people, “Have you heard any new jokes about Chappaquiddick?”
Classy guy. Lion of the Senate.
According to his own testimony, Kennedy swam across the 500-foot channel, back to Edgartown and returned to his hotel room, where he removed his clothes and collapsed on his bed. Hearing noises, he later put on dry clothes and asked someone what the time was: it was something like 2:30 a.m., the senator recalled. He testified that, as the night went on, "I almost tossed and turned and walked around that room ... I had not given up hope all night long that, by some miracle, Mary Jo would have escaped from the car."
Back at his hotel, Kennedy complained at 2:55 a.m. to the hotel owner that he had been awoken by a noisy party. By 7:30 a.m. the next morning he was talking "casually" to the winner of the previous day's sailing race, with no indication that anything was amiss. At 8 a.m., Gargan and Markham joined Kennedy at his hotel where they had a "heated conversation." According to Kennedy's testimony, the two men asked why he had not reported the accident. Kennedy responded by telling them "about my own thoughts and feelings as I swam across that channel ... that somehow when they arrived in the morning that they were going to say that Mary Jo was still alive". The three men subsequently crossed back to Chappaquiddick Island on the ferry, where Kennedy made a series of telephone calls from a pay telephone near the crossing. The telephone calls were to his friends for advice and again, he did not report the accident to authorities.
He also issued this bull**** statement.
On July 18, 1969, at approximately 11:15 p.m. in Chappaquiddick, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, I was driving my car on Main Street on my way to get the ferry back to Edgartown. I was unfamiliar with the road and turned right onto Dike Road, instead of bearing hard left on Main Street. After proceeding for approximately one-half mile on Dike Road I descended a hill and came upon a narrow bridge. The car went off the side of the bridge. There was one passenger with me, one Miss Mary [Kopechne], a former secretary of my brother Sen. Robert Kennedy. The car turned over and sank into the water and landed with the roof resting on the bottom. I attempted to open the door and the window of the car but have no recollection of how I got out of the car. I came to the surface and then repeatedly dove down to the car in an attempt to see if the passenger was still in the car. I was unsuccessful in the attempt. I was exhausted and in a state of shock. I recall walking back to where my friends were eating. There was a car parked in front of the cottage and I climbed into the backseat. I then asked for someone to bring me back to Edgartown. I remember walking around for a period and then going back to my hotel room. When I fully realized what had happened this morning, I immediately contacted the police.
For his crimes, he received a two month suspended sentence.
On July 25, seven days after the incident, Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury. Kennedy's attorneys suggested that any jail sentence should be suspended, and the prosecutors agreed to this, citing Kennedy's age, character and prior reputation. Judge James Boyle sentenced Kennedy to two months' incarceration, the statutory minimum for the offense, which he suspended. In announcing the sentence, Boyle referred to Kennedy's "unblemished record" and said that he "has already been, and will continue to be punished far beyond anything this court can impose".
Kopechne’s birthday is next week. She’d be 71.