Skakel's attorney seeks IDs of sources
By J.A. Johnson Jr. - Greenwich Time
STAMFORD - If the warrant used to arrest alleged murderer Michael Skakel is to be made public, then prosecutors should reveal the names of people who have accused Skakel of having incriminated himself in the murder of Greenwich teenager Martha Moxley, Skakel's defense lawyer argued yesterday in state Superior Court.
Stamford attorney Michael Sherman said that while he does not object to a motion by news organizations to unseal his client's arrest warrant, he is concerned that the warrant cites unnamed sources.
"For no other reason, it would dispel the stigma and innuendo that there's something to hide" by publicly identifying his client's accusers, Sherman told Judge Maureen Dennis, who said she would issue a written decision on the motion.
Skakel's court file is sealed because the 39-year-old defendant was 15 when Moxley was murdered in 1975 and was arraigned as a juvenile.
According to Sherman, prosecutors applied for the Skakel arrest warrant based on statements by unidentified people who testified before a grand jury that they heard Skakel make incriminating remarks while attending the Elan School substance abuse rehabilitation center in Maine with Skakel between 1978 and 1980.
Skakel surrendered to police on Jan. 19 after learning a judge had approved the arrest warrant application.
In a previous court filing, State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict stated, "To date, (I) have been informed by several former residents of Elan that (Elan owner) Joseph Ricci was present and overheard Michael Skakel make admissions as to the murder of Martha Moxley; that said admissions were made by Michael Skakel in response to being confronted by Mr. Ricci and other Elan staff members as to Skakel's involvement in the matter."
Citing an example contained in the 12-page arrest warrant, Sherman told the judge one witness is identified only as "a former resident of Elan designated No. 16."
The motion to open the juvenile case file was submitted March 21 by Greenwich Time, The (Stamford) Advocate, The Hartford Courant, Newsday, The New York Times and The Associated Press. The same news organizations were successful in an earlier bid to gain access to Skakel's March 14 arraignment.
Dennis opened the arraignment mainly because as an adult, Skakel no longer required the protection that juvenile court secrecy rules afford youthful offenders. She also noted in a written decision that Skakel did not object to being publicly arraigned.
At yesterday's hearing, the lawyer representing the media outlets argued that unsealing Skakel's court file was the logical next step for Dennis to take after making Skakel's court proceedings open to the public.
"In short, what we are seeking is the same material that would be available to the public if this were an adult case," attorney David Fein told Dennis.
Benedict, the prosecutor, told Dennis that he does not object to unsealing Skakel's court file.
The arrest culminated an 18-month grand jury investigation convened in June 1998.
Skakel was among a group of teens who were with Moxley the night she was slain with a golf club that police determined belonged to the Skakel family.
A probable cause hearing to determine whether Skakel's case should proceed toward trial is scheduled for June 20.
Skakel is free on $500,000 bond.