Skakel To Be Tried As Adult

STAMFORD, Conn. Jan. 31, 2001 4:05 pm
(WCBS) Kennedy nephew Michael Skakel will be tried as an adult in the 1975 murder of Greenwich teen-ager Martha Moxley, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Skakel's father, Rushton Skakel Sr., is the brother of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel.

Skakel's case has been heard in juvenile court thus far because of his age at the time of the slaying. Both he and the victim were 15 at the time.

But Judge Maureen Dennis said adult court was the proper venue for the trial, in part because the state has no juvenile facility where it could send Skakel, now 40, if convicted.

State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict had said he would consider dropping the case unless it was transferred to adult court. He said Skakel would face such a small penalty in juvenile court that it may not be worth the trauma to Moxley's family.

Skakel has maintained his innocence. As a juvenile, the maximum penalty he could receive under the law in effect in 1975 is four years. For adults, the law sets a range of a minimum of 10 years to life in prison.

Frank Garr, an inspector in the Bridgeport State's Attorney's office who has investigated the case for 25 years, said prosecutors were pleased with the decision.

"We anticipated it," he said. "It is the court where it should be, and we're ready to proceed."

Skakel's lawyer, Michael Sherman, could not immediately be reached.

Moxley was killed on Oct. 30, 1975, after an evening of pre-Halloween fun with a group of teen-age friends, including Skakel and his older brother, Thomas, then 17. Her body was found the next day on her family's estate in Greenwich.

The 6-iron golf club used in the killing was matched to a set of golf clubs owned by the Skakel family.

The Skakel family lived across the street from the Moxley family in the exclusive Belle Haven section of Greenwich.

No arrests were made in the case for more than 24 years. Skakel was charged in January following an investigation by a one-judge grand jury.

Dennis had ruled previously that there was probable cause to allow the case against Skakel to continue. But she considered for months the question of where he should be tried.

Under state law, a juvenile found delinquent can be committed to a state youth facility or a hospital or other institution. The state's facilities are expressly barred from accepting anyone over the age of 18, and commitment to a mental institution would not be appropriate in this case, Dennis noted.

"The court further finds that the facilities of the adult criminal division of the Superior Court afford and provide a more effective setting for the disposition of this case," Dennis wrote.

Separately, Dennis refused to act on a motion to dismiss the charges, based on the statute of limitations. Because the case is being moved to adult court, where Skakel has not yet been formally charged, any motion based on the statute of limitations is premature, she said.

One witness in the murder trial was Alice Dunn, a staff member at the Elan School in Maine which Skakel attended after the 1975 murder.

She had testified that she did not remember Skakel admitting to the beating death of his then-neighbor and that when he screamed "I'm sorry" over and over again during a group therapy session, it was for the remorse he felt for a remark he made to his mother just before she died. That was the pain he was working through, said Dunn, insisting it had nothing to do at all with Martha Moxley.

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