Ex-Skakel attorney loses appeal
By J.A. Johnson Jr., Greenwich Time

A former lawyer for Martha Moxley murder suspect Michael Skakel will have to appear before the grand jury investigating the Greenwich girl's 1975 slaying as the result of a New York court's decision.

Manhattan attorney Thomas Sheridan Jr. yesterday was denied his appeal of a New York judge's enforcement of a subpoena ordering him to appear before the grand jury in Bridgeport.

State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict said a date had yet to be set for Sheridan's appearance, but he expected it would be sometime next month. The prosecutor said he would like Sheridan's testimony to coincide with that of another subpoenaed witness - a former private detective who investigated the Moxley case for Sheridan in preparation for a possible criminal defense.

Sheridan's testimony is being sought to challenge Skakel defense attorneys' claims that information obtained by the private detective is privileged information, Benedict has said.

Sheridan's attorney, Norman Bloch, declined comment yesterday. Sheridan was subpoenaed by the grand jury in October, but he refused to comply Connecticut prosecutors sought enforcement of the order through New York courts, and a Manhattan judge last month filed that Sheridan must comply. Sheridan appealed the decision, and the appeal was denied yesterday by the New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division.

The other subpoenaed witness, Willis Krebs, worked for Jericho, N-Y-based Sutton Associates when, in 1992, the private detective agency was hired by Sheridan to investigate the Moxley murder, Krebs, a former New York City police officer who is now an investigator with the Suffolk County, N.Y., district attorney's office, is being sought as a witness because of possibly incriminating information Krebs obtained while working for Sheridan, according to an affidavit signed by Benedict.

In the affidavit, Benedict alleges that both Michael Skakel and his brother, Thomas, significantly changed the alibis they had given police in 1975 when questioned years later by Sutton Associates investigators. According to the affidavit, the revised stories placed the suspects either with Moxley or near the crime scene at about the time police said the 15-year-old girl was murdered with a golf club owned by the Skakel family.

Sheridan represented Michael Skakel from 1976 until shortly after the Moxley grand jury was convened last June. Skakel since has been represented by Stamford defense attorney Michael Sherman.

Krebs' former boss, Sutton Associates owner James Murphy, also was subpoenaed by the Moxley grand jury, but an attorney representing Murphy and both Skakel brothers successfully blocked the subpoena. A Nassau County judge ruled earlier this month that Benedict failed to prove Murphy was a necessary and material witness.

Skakel's lawyers similarly are trying to block Krebs' subpoena, and a hearing on the matter has tentatively been scheduled for Feb. 9 in Suffolk County Court.

Earlier this week, the grand jury probe suffered a setback when the Connecticut Supreme Court demand Benedict's request to expedite the appeal of another reluctant witness - the owner of a drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation center where Michael Skakel allegedly made statements about the Moxley murder.

A Superior Court judge in December ruled against defense attorneys' claims that the testimony of Elan School owner Joseph Ricci could not be used against Skakel because anything the suspect said while a resident of Ricci's Poland Spring, Maine, rehab center was privileged information.

The ruling was appealed, and Benedict asked the Supreme Court to hear the appeal directly, bypassing the usual step of first going to the state Appellate,Court. Benedict said he made the request to expedite matters, as the Appellate Court's decision would be appealed no matter how it ruled.

Benedict yesterday said he was disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision, as the grand jury is working against the clock. By state statute, the grand jury has a maximum of 18 months to complete its work, meaning the probe's time will expire in December.

"We can't effectively complete the grand jury proceeding with this matter outstanding," the prosecutor said.