State denies grand jury cleared Thomas Skakel
By J.A. Johnson Jr. - Greenwich Time
Although his brother Michael is the one now charged with the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley, one-time murder suspect Thomas Skakel is not yet out of the woods, according to the Moxley case prosecutor.
State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict yesterday said that Thomas Skakel's attorney was "ill advised" to have publicly stated his client had been exonerated of wrongdoing because a grand jury's term for investigating the Moxley case had expired without a recommendation for additional arrests.
"This office has done nothing to suggest that anybody has been cleared in this matter," Benedict said.
The attorney, Emanuel Margolis, made his claim of exoneration based on the fact the grand jury - which had issued a report that was used as a basis for Michael Skakel's Jan. 19 arrest on a murder charge - had not issued an additional report that could have been used to justify an arrest warrant for Thomas Skakel.
By law, the grand jury had 60 days to issue reports from the time it adjourned Dec. 10. Margolis made his claim Feb.11, a day after the deadline.
"Since there is no report, I believe that my client is completely cleared as far as an investigation is concerned, and (Thomas') innocence has been more firmly established," Margolis stated at the time.
Benedict refuted that interpretation of the grand jury's inaction against Thomas Skakel.
"That's Mr. Margolis' conclusion," he said. "This investigation, like all of my investigations, is active until it is concluded in court."
Benedict would neither confirm nor deny that Thomas Skakel remained a suspect, nor would he say whether his office was investigating suspects other than Michael Skakel for the murder of 15-year-old Moxley. But his comments regarding Margolis' statement that Thomas Skakel had been exonerated may explain why Thomas Skakel had not been called before the grand jury that spent 18 months investigating the crime.
Thomas might have been able to provide the grand jury with useful information since he, then 17, along with Michael, then 15, had been with Moxley the night she was slain with a golf club police said was owned by the Skakel family. And if Michael did kill Moxley, who lived next to the Skakels, then Thomas could have been privy to conversations within his family as they rallied around his younger brother.
For much of the murder investigation, the only suspects officials publicly identified were Thomas Skakel and Kenneth Littleton, a private tutor who had moved into the Skakel house the same day Moxley was slain. Littleton was eliminated as a suspect last year when granted immunity in return for his grand jury testimony.
Publicly released police records show the elder Skakel brother had been a suspect primarily because he had engaged in flirtatious behavior with Moxley the night of the murder, and had fabricated a story about having to do a nonexistent homework assignment to explain his whereabouts after having left Moxley.
Thomas Skakel cast further suspicion on himself in recent years, when disclosing to private investigators that he had lied to police during questioning in 1975. According to a report by the investigators, Thomas Skakel had gone much further than flirting with the victim, having had a sexual encounter that involved mutual masturbation.
The private investigations firm of Sutton Associates had been hired by Margolis and Michael Skakel's then-attorney Thomas Sheridan in attempt to clear the brothers as suspects. The firm's investigation resulted in a 1995 report, a copy of which was obtained by Greenwich Time.
"Tommy maintains his innocence and professes to have no first-hand knowledge of how Martha Moxley was murdered," the Sutton report states. "The few changes he has made to his story, however, are extremely revelatory ... In conjunction with other circumstantial evidence, they have contributed substantial credence to the possibility of Tommy's guilt and, at the very least, suggest he has willfully deceived authorities, with considerable success, for many years."
It had been speculated by some that the elder Skakel brother was not called before the grand jury because doing so would have required granting him immunity from prosecution in return for any testimony he provided, and the state would have lost him as a prosecutable suspect. Others believe Thomas Skakel was not immunized because once a suspect is freed of the possibility of prosecution, there is always the possibility he could then claim guilt to create reasonable doubt the person actually charged had committed the crime.
"We didn't want to get into a situation where we gave him immunity and then he says he did it," one source close to the investigation said.
If Thomas Skakel or anyone else besides his brother remain suspects, there are only two crimes they could be charged with: murder, for which there is no statute of limitation, and aiding another in commission of a crime, for which there is no time limit for prosecution when the crime is that of murder.
As for whether further charges will result from his investigation, Benedict said, "You'll just have to sit and watch the evidence flow - it always does."