Skakel's reason for leaving school disputed
By Kevin McCallum - Stamford Advocate

STAMFORD -- Michael Skakel's claim that he left the Vershire School in Vermont for academic reasons is not true, the former headmaster of the school said.

"He did all right academically, with some teacher prodding," Richard Wright told the Boston Globe on Sunday.

On Saturday, The Advocate asked Skakel's attorney, Michael Sherman, to comment on a story that Skakel was ejected from the school after allegedly threatening a teacher's wife with a ski pole.

Sherman told The Advocate he discussed the allegation with Skakel and his client "categorically denied" the incident occurred. Sherman said Skakel left the school in 1978 because he was failing academically.

Sherman followed the conversation with a letter warning The Advocate that the proposed article would be "inflammatory and prejudicial" and would be a "very real reckless disregard for the truth."

Publication of such a story 10 days before Skakel's murder trial would cause "irreparable harm" to his client, Sherman wrote, adding he would take "any legal action deemed appropriate" should the story be published.

After reading the article Sunday, Wright stood by his account of events and predicted that Sherman would not continue to claim his client left the school for academic reasons.

"I think he will back away from that position after he reads the article," Wright said.

Yesterday, however, Sherman stood by his assertion that his client left the school because he was failing.

"I'm not backing away from anything," Sherman said, "and I'm not stepping up to the microphone on this, either."

Sherman said he would not discuss his client's version of what occurred at the school because he has too many other things to do that are relevant to the trial, which begins May 7.

"I'm not wasting my time on it," Sherman said.

Wright said last week he is in possession of the academic records of the school, and said he checked some of those records to confirm details of Skakel's time at the school, which closed in 1988.

The school's records are disorganized and stored in a shed on the property, Wright said. Some of those records show Skakel attended the private boarding school from September 1977 until late February 1978, Wright. said

He said his recollection of Skakel's dismissal from the school was refreshed by these records, as well as by conversations with his wife and former staff members at the school.

Because the woman, New Hampshire resident Jane Taupier, has declined to comment, Wright's records may be vital to establishing the truth.

Wright declined to turn over the records to The Advocate, citing privacy issues. Under different circumstances, however, he could turn them over.

"If they want to subpoena them, then we'll dig out what we have," Wright said yesterday.

It is unclear just how much interest prosecutors have in the records or the account of the ski pole incident. Prosecutors have declined to comment.

In his letter, Sherman challenged The Advocate to produce documentation of the incident.

"If something happened 24 years ago, show us some documentation and we would be more than happy to respond further," Sherman wrote.

Sherman now says he has little interest in any documentation.

Asked whether he is concerned that Wright's records could establish why Skakel left the school, Sherman responded, "Don't care."

Sherman said he questions school officials' credibility. "I think one should always consider the source (of the information)," he said.

Investigator Frank Garr also would not comment, adding only that he was interested in issues raised in the article.

"I don't feel it was a waste of time at all," Garr said.

Copyright 2002, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.



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