Douglas Kennedy is charged with endangering the baby and physically harassing two nurses in the January incident.
After a mostly procedural court session, Kennedy said, "It is OK for a father to hold his son in his arms ... my father was taken away from me when I was a baby."
"The only thing I wanted to do that night was to be with my son and hold him in my arms," Kennedy said.
On Jan. 7, Kennedy tried to take his 2-day-old son from the maternity ward at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, about 30 miles from Manhattan. He said he wanted some fresh air for the baby, but nurses tried to stop him, citing hospital policy, and a tussle was recorded on hospital video. Security guards were summoned and the baby stayed in the hospital.
The hospital reported the incident to police and the state's Child Protective Services. Kennedy was arrested in February.
One nurse said Kennedy twisted her arm as she tried to keep him from leaving with the baby, and another said he kicked her.
Kennedy, 44, said Thursday "I was protecting my son from a complete stranger who tried to grab him from my arms."
Kennedy's wife, Molly, said "our lives have been turned upside down simply because my husband wanted to take a walk with our son."
Kennedy lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, called the prosecution "a disgrace." He said Kennedy had received a letter from a personal injury lawyer representing the two nurses.
"Certain individuals have taken advantage of a situation to line their pockets," Gottlieb said.
A state investigation, including a visit to the Kennedy home in Chappaqua, found no evidence of child abuse by Kennedy. That conclusion does not directly affect the child endangerment charge, but Gottlieb has filed a motion to dismiss all charges.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Puerto said in court that the prosecution would fight the motion.
A small group of nurses from the state nurses union demonstrated outside court demanding that the harassment charge be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Juliane Hatzel, a recovery room nurse at Westchester Medical Center, said "nurses get hurt all the time and there's usually nothing that comes of it."
Donna Hemmer, a nursing supervisor at the same hospital, said "I commend the nurses for putting the safety of the baby ahead of their own safety."
Kennedy is next due in Mount Kisco Town Court on June 14.
Kennedy is the 10th of 11 children of Robert and Ethel Kennedy. His father was assassinated in 1968.
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