Finally, A Skakel Held Accountable
By AMY PAGNOZZI - The Hartford Courant

Long before Martha Moxley was born, almost any child who'd heard tell of the Skakels of Greenwich knew they were people it was better to steer clear of - people you never, ever crossed.

Money will buy you out of many a mess, and it's true the Skakels had plenty of dough - but the one thing you can't buy people out of are their fears. Too many Skakels had committed too many bad acts for too long.

According to various books and other published accounts, three generations of Skakels got away with things in Greenwich and New York that would have gotten them bounced out of the humblest trailer park their first day and should have landed them in jail.

If Michael Skakel is convicted of killing Martha Moxley, he will be the first in his family ever to be held accountable. But woe to any child born into such a clan.

You know Michael's father, Rushton? Here's a guy who reportedly is alcoholic, or crazy, or may have organic brain damage or Alzheimer's - unless he's a better actor than mobster Vincent Gigante, who pretended to be crazy to avoid going to court. Gigante is probably the better father.

As for uncles, Michael's Uncle George is reported to have shot his brother, Michael's Uncle Jim, in the belly for unknown reasons when both were young and working as ranch hands in Moab, Utah. Some time after, Uncle Jim shot his buddy Greg Reilly and, instead of calling an ambulance, he drove Reilly all the way to United Hospital in Port Chester, N.Y., to avert suspicion.

In 1958, Michael's cousin Francis Michael Medaille, who was 15 at the time, first strangled and then pushed 7-year-old Kathleen Hegmann (another friend of the family) to her death out of the window of her family's New York City apartment.

In 1962, Michael's Aunt Pat caught his Uncle George with another woman in the guest house. Aunt Pat burned the guest house, filled with priceless antiques, to the ground.

If you want more detail on these incidents, you can find it in the nonfiction books ``The Other Mrs. Kennedy,'' by Jerry Oppenheimer; ``Greentown,'' by Timothy Dumas; and ``Murder in Greenwich,'' by Mark Fuhrman.

You may also want to check out the Martha Moxley Web site (marthamoxley.com), which was put up by friends and has many Moxley family photos.

Fifteen-year-old Martha looks so young and unafraid.

None of the Moxleys knew there was reason to fear the Skakels. Rushton Skakel was an institution - not only a millionaire, but also the brother of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy's widow.

Nobody knew the limits of this family's power or the bounds of their irrationality. The Skakels were spoken about in whispers. ``You didn't want to get in their way, because they were known to stop at nothing,'' a classmate of Martha's told me, asking that his name be withheld.

Nobody spoke to the Moxleys about the Skakels at all because they became friends so quickly. Michael's father sponsored Martha's father for a membership in the University Club in New York, according to Dorthy Moxley. They were in the same cocktail set, and both Skakel boys, Tom, 17, and Michael, 15, were sweet on Martha.

Granted, Rushton Skakel had a lot on his mind in the years before the murder, what with the boys being uncontrollable and their mother, Ann, dying of cancer. And he is reported to have had too much liquor in him most of the time.

But when a kid is pounding squirrels and cats into medallions with your golf clubs like Michael was reported to have been, and scaring his own sister, you figure a father would think there's plenty of time for dating later and send the kid away somewhere far.

Most problems will improve - including kids - if you throw enough money in the right direction soon enough, say before Michael moved on from hurting small mammals. Martha Moxley might not have been murdered. And even after she was, assuming he was convicted of the crime, Michael Skakel might still have been saved.

The justice served upon Michael the child would have sought rehabilitation. The justice served upon Michael the man seeks only to punish.

And maybe Dorthy Moxley's husband would still be at her side. Failed by the system, he could not talk about his child and threw himself into his work, dying beside his wife of a heart attack at 52.

Instead, 24 years after Martha Moxley's murder, her mother lives mainly to see justice done to one of Rushton's sons, both of whom have grown older without growing up, marrying wives and siring children without a job between them, cosseted their whole lives by lawyers and kooks.

Their formidable attorney, Mickey Sherman, made an uncharacteristic slip-up on TV this week, referring to his clients as ``these kids.'' Saying of his clients, ``These kids are far from privileged'' he spoke the truth.

Nobody should suffer childhood so long.

I hope Michael will end it.

According to Michael's stepmother, Anna Mae, (the only Skakel who's talking), ``Michael Skakel has a conscience. Believe me, if Michael ever did anything wrong, he would have to tell you, because that's the way he is.''

But of course, he did tell people, repeatedly (reportedly): In group therapy at the Elan School in Maine, a private jail where rich kids' parents send them when they get in trouble (which Michael escaped from three times). And, in a bizarre book proposal about his life story which was submitted on his behalf by a lawyer his family subsequently fired.

Maybe Michael will tell the truth about himself to people who believe him this time.