Skakel complains of treatment in prison.
By Peter Moore, Editor - Greenwich Post
From his 8-by-10-foot cell at Cheshire Correctional Institution, convicted killer Michael Skakel complained in letters to his cousin George Skakel III of a lack of medical treatment, appropriate temperatures in prison cells and unusually harsh treatment afforded him by prison officials.
"I have always received harsher treatment than anyone from day one," Skakel wrote in a letter dated Nov. 13.
George Skakel, 52, an investor who lives in Greenwich, is Michael
Skakel's first cousin, who, in a letter to the editor printed in last week's edition of Greenwich Post, urged Greenwich residents to read an article written by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Skakel's first cousin.
Kennedy's story ran in the January/February edition of the AtlanticMonthly. In the article, Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and former prosecutor, makes a case for his cousin's innocence.
Michael Skakel was convicted last June of beating Martha Moxley to death with a golf club in 1975, when both were 15-year-old neighbors in Belle Haven. He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison in August.
The Connecticut Supreme Court is expected to hear Skakel's appeal in the fall.
Last Monday, George Skakel gave Greenwich Post access to the letters, allowing this reporter to dictate excerpts into a tape recorder. He did not allow the paper to photocopy the letters.
In one letter, dated July 22, Michael also appears to express regret for hiring Michael Sherman, who defended him at trial. Kennedy criticized Sherman in his article, saying the attorney seemed more interested in basking in the media limelight than getting Skakel acquitted.
"George, I am sorry to say that you were right on all accounts with regards to my legal representation," Skakel wrote. George said Michael was responding to George's comment that hiring Sherman was a mistake.
Sherman said if Michael ever resented him after the
trial, it "came with the territory" and that Skakel does not appear to be angry with him.
"All I can say is that when I saw him in jail two days ago, he gave me a hug and we had a nice talk," Sherman said.
Sherman also said his client brought him "up to speed" on his
complaints about his confinement.
"Michael mentioned to me that he's basically locked up 21-plus hours a day," Sherman said. "Basically that's for his own protection. But it seems so harsh."
Sherman said the sight of his client in prison is "heartbreaking."
In his letters, Skakel focuses heavily on his son, George Skakel IV, in his letters, saying he prayed with a priest for "Georgie" and complaining that the prison's visiting hours make it impossible for him to see his son.
On Oct. 22, 2002, after being transferred from Garner Correction
Institution in Newtown to Cheshire, Skakel wrote to George that "unlike anyone else who moves from one prison to another in this state, I was thrown in the hole in both places, which is somewhat of a feat because that treatment is usually reserved for the most hardcore criminals. I was also given some very vague explanations. I was lucky Hope Seeley arrived when she did one week ago or you probably would have been reading about a hospital visit."
He continued, "The solitary cells here were well over 100 degrees, coupled with not getting my heart medicine, [that] was a serious recipe for disaster. I was told and confirmed (sic) that a man my age died of a heart attack on the same block three months ago. He apparently complained for four
days about chest pains. Well, we know the rest."
Skakel also complained of not being allowed to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and not being able to attend church often.
"They have taken church from me -- 20 minute Mass on a
Tuesday afternoon... maybe... no AA, no Bible study, 22-plus hours in a cell, all meals in a cell, no chance of having my son come here with the new visiting schedule," Skakel said.
Skakel is a devout Catholic and a recovering alcoholic who, family members say, has been sober since 1982.
In a letter dated Nov. 13, Skakel addressed accusations in an article published last summer in the Hartford Courant that he was receiving special treatment, including being allowed to use a staff bathroom during a meeting with Laurie Hennessey, a probation officer conducting a pre-sentence
Skakel wrote, "I had nothing to drink the night before. I had no
breakfast. Three hours into the questioning by the probation officer, I could hold it no longer. Hope Seeley was present. The corrections officer refused to let me go to the bathroom and threatened that the visit would end. Laurie Hennessey, who is an employee of the state of Connecticut, then told the
guard, 'This is not a social visit. Get the warden on the phone and let this man urinate. The man did so under orders of the major/warden. I was reamed and threatened by the guard that that would never happen again. I had to apologize for using the men's room."
Skakel continued, "I have always received harsher treatment than anyone from day one. My cell was always searched when no one else's was. I was always stopped and searched in the hallways. I was always verbally chastised more than anyone. Hope Seeley knows the allegations of the special treatment are all lies. Laurie Hennessey, who works for the state, I'm told, was
shocked by how the media had portrayed my treatment. That is the truth."
Hennessey could not be reached for comment.
Skakel also said he was denied dental care.
"I bit into something and broke my teeth three weeks ago. I am told it will be eight months before I can see a dentist," he wrote.
Stephen Skakel, Michael's younger brother, said Monday that Michael had some issues regarding his incarceration but they had since been addressed.
"There have been issues," Stephen said. "(By) going through the
proper channels at the Department of Corrections, they have been handled appropriately."
Corrections spokeswoman Christina Polce said Skakel has never been insolitary confinement and only once in restrictive housing Oct. 29, for, at the most, five hours. She said this measure was taken for "safety and security" reasons but did not elaborate.
Polce confirmed Skakel has not incurred any disciplinary violations since his initial incarceration. She also said dental non-emergencies often can take several months.
"He has made no complaints about his teeth," Polce said. "For
someone to wait six months for a non-emergency appointment is not out of the ordinary."
When Michael's father Rushton Skakel, Sr., died in January, George Skakel said relatives who visited Michael related he was still in "solitary."
Stephen said Michael was being held in "protective custody." He
declined to elaborate but said he was satisfied with his brother's treatment by prison officials.
Polce would not say whether Skakel was part of the prison's generalpopulation or in a special unit. At one time, published reports stated Skakel was in a mental health unit at Garner.
"He's assigned to a housing unit that has provided the same
opportunities as those for general population offenders," she said. "He's treated just like any other offender.?????????
Police also said Skakel has never voiced any concerns to the prison officials.
"If he does have concerns, he needs to bring his concerns forward," Polce said. "At this time, he has not done that."
However, Polce acknowledged the prison staff is aware of the issues Michael raised in his letters to George Skakel.
"These issues have long since been resolved," she said.
Stephen Skakel said that in his visits he has never seen the prison staff be less than civil.
"It's certainly not an environment I thought I would find myself in but I found the guards and the people at check-in [to be] very professional," Stephen said.
Stephen also declared himself a more reliable source than Skakel's cousin.
"George has not seen [Michael]," Stephen said. "I see Michael every weekend. I speak to him every day."
George Skakel said he was sure of his cousin did not kill Martha Moxley and said Michael was "emotionally incapable of shading the truth."
Hope Seeley, one of Skakel's appellate attorneys, did not return
repeated calls but released a statement to Greenwich Post.
"My client has had no disciplinary problems while incarcerated either at Garner Correctional Institution or Cheshire Correctional Institution," Seeley wrote. "My client does not wish to discuss any issues relating to his confinement conditions with the press. Instead, he believes any issues
he might have with his confinement conditions should be addressed with the appropriate persons within the Department of Corrections."
She added, "My client did not intend for any of his personal letters to family members to be shared with any member of the press."