Moxley calls Skakel story 'startling'
By Hoa Nguyen and Neil Vigdor - Stamford Advocate

News that Michael Skakel's attorneys will ask for a new trial based on an interview with Kobe Bryant's cousin -- who reportedly implicates two childhood friends in the murder of Martha Moxley -- has caused a stir among people close to the case.

Dorthy Moxley, mother of the 15-year-old girl who was slain in Belle Haven nearly 28 years ago, said she read the story on the Internet.

"It's a little startling, to say the least," Moxley said. "I think we just have to wait until they present their motion in court."

Moxley said the fact that Skakel's attorneys were seeking a new trial wasn't in itself surprising.

"I think you realize when you're in a situation like this that it doesn't go away," she said. "You're always ready for something."

The Hartford Courant reported yesterday that the attorneys handling Skakel's appeal intend to clear their client by submitting as new evidence a 90-minute videotaped interview with Gitano "Tony" Bryant, a cousin of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who is a defendant in his own criminal case.

Tony Bryant, a classmate of Skakel's at the private Brunswick School in Greenwich, is reported in The Courant to have said he went to Belle Haven the night of the murder with two friends who talked of attacking a girl "caveman style." After telling them he didn't want a part in their plans, Bryant said, he left on a train at about 9 p.m. to return to his home in the Bronx, N.Y., The Courant reported.

Bryant's friends, who he said were carrying Skakel's golf clubs on the night of the murder, admitted their role in the attack to Bryant days later, according to Bryant, who when reached for comment said he stood behind his statement, the newspaper reported.

The Courant, who did not name Bryant's friends because it could not reach them, confirmed the contents of Bryant's story with another Brunswick classmate, Tres Mills.

Mills told the newspaper that Bryant recounted the story in December 2001, after which Mills tried to contact defense attorneys and prosecutors to tell them what he knew. Mills, who used to work for CBS television, said he also approached Dorthy Moxley when she was invited by the network to appear on a morning show, according to The Courant.

Yesterday, Moxley said she remembered the encounter, which took place several days after Skakel's sentencing.

"When he approached me at the television station, I was just about to go on," Moxley said. "He takes his time to tell me this story that sounds off the wall."

Moxley confirmed she was upset at the time and told a television producer about it. Mills, in the Courant story, said he was fired from CBS hours later.

Appellate attorney Hope Seeley said in an interview with Greenwich Time yesterday that the Bryant interview was taped by defense investigators at the end of August.

"We've just learned of this information in the last seven days," she said.

Earlier this week, Seeley disclosed during a hearing to disburse reward money to key witnesses in the Skakel murder case that the defense had obtained new evidence, but she declined to reveal any details at the time.

Yesterday, Seeley said she was contacted late Friday night by a Courant reporter who wanted to confirm the story. She declined to say how the newspaper learned of the videotaped interview with Bryant.

Even though elements of her strategy have been made public, Seeley said, she plans to proceed with the petition for a new trial exactly as she already was.

"I'm going to work in the manner that I work," she said, adding that it will take a few weeks for her to complete the paperwork.

Although the new evidence seeks to clear a Kennedy cousin -- Skakel -- by focusing on the cousin of another celebrity -- Bryant -- that has no bearing on the case, Seeley said.

"I have the benefit of seeing the videotape," she said. "I'm not focused on the fact he's got a famous relative. I'm focused on what his words say."

Seeley said what's important is the story told by Bryant.

"He's in the (Brunswick) yearbook," she said. "It's not as if we're making him up. He's a real person who happens to have a famous cousin."

Seeley declined to comment about whether it will be difficult for Skakel to get a new trial with the new evidence she intends to introduce.

"I'm filing a petition and I will let the court evaluate the evidence," she said.

Besides saying that the defense has to prove the merit of any motion they file, Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano, who helped prosecute Skakel, also declined to comment.

"We are awaiting any motion that might be filed," Morano said. "We haven't heard anything."

A defense lawyer not connected to the case, Philip Russell of Greenwich, said that petitioning for a new trial is generally difficult.

"It's not enough to demonstrate that this is newly discovered evidence," he said. "They must demonstrate this is evidence which could not reasonably have been discovered at trial."

A jury convicted Skakel on June 7, 2002, and he was later sentenced to 20 years.

"There's a doctrine, the doctrine of finality of judgments," he said. "It's only in a very unusual case that they will undermine that because there's a value placed on putting things to rest," Russell said.

Michael Sherman, who defended Skakel at his murder trial, said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on any new details in the case at this time because the verdict is being appealed.

"I know one thing for sure: Michael Skakel did not commit this crime," Sherman said.

Yesterday, Eileen Skakel, wife of John Skakel, one of Michael's brothers, said, "Obviously we stand by Michael's innocence, and the information speaks for itself," she said.

Copyright 2003, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.

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