"Judge hears arguements in Moxley murder case."
"Skakel Attorney Battles to Block P.I.'s Testimony."
By J.A. Johnson Jr., Greenwich Time
RIVERHEAD, N.Y. - Whether the rights of suspects in the 1975 murder of Greenwich
teenager Martha Moxley would be violated by the testimony of a private
investigator who interviewed them is a matter that must be determined in
Connecticut, a prosecutor told a Suffolk County, N.Y., judge yesterday.
Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Karen Petterson urged Judge Michael
Mullen to therefore rule against a motion on behalf of suspects Michael and
Thomas Skakel to quash a subpoena that orders the investigator to appear before
the Bridgeport grand jury.
But the Skakels' attorney, Robert Gottlieb, said during arguments in Suffolk
County Court that Mullen should quash the subpoena to avoid being a "rubber
stamp" for Connecticut prosecutors.
Although Connecticut prosecutors allege the Skakel brothers changed their 1975
alibis to police in later interviews with the subpoenaed investigator, Willis
Krebs, Gottlieb told Mullen the interviews cannot be discussed before the grand
jury because they involved confidential conversations.
The interviews were conducted while Krebs was an employee of the Jericho, N.Y.-
based Sutton Associates private investigations firm. The firm was hired by
Skakel defense attorneys in 1992 to prepare for a possible criminal defense. As
a result, Gottlieb told Mullen, anything the Skakels told Krebs constitutes an
attorney "work product," which is protected from disclosure by the attorney-
Michael and Thomas Skakel, who in 1975 were 15 and 17, respectively, were both
with Moxley the night their 15-year-old Greenwich neighbor was murdered. Police
identified the murder weapon as a 6-iron from a set of golf clubs owned by the
Although police have said both Skakels initially claimed to have been nowhere
near the Oct. 30, 1975 crime scene, prosecutors allege the brothers told Krebs
of either being at the crime scene or with the victim at the time of the murder.
The Connecticut prosecutors "are saying they want agents of the defense
attorneys to testify about confidential conversations," Gottlieb told the judge.
"That is such a clear and brazen effort to violate the attorney-client
Krebs, now an investigator with the Suffolk County district attorney's white
collar crime unit, is not contesting the subpoena. Just prior to Mullen's
endorsement of the Connecticut subpoena on Oct. 19, Krebs signed a waiver of his
right to contest the order.
Gottlieb had planned to question Krebs in Mullen's courtroom, but on Wednesday
the attorney instead filed an affidavit in which the investigator states: "At
the time of my investigation in the (Moxley) case I was an employee of Sutton
Associates ... I always participated in these conversations with the
understanding that these conversations were strictly confidential and protected
under the attorney-client and work product privileges."
Krebs states in the affidavit he conducted two interviews of Thomas Skakel and
one interview of Michael Skakel, all while in the presence of their defense
Petterson argued that since Krebs' testimony is being sought in Connecticut,
which has its own laws protecting the attorney-client privilege, objections to
the testimony must be decided in that state.
That is exactly what Manhattan Judge Herbert Adlerberg ruled late last year when
upholding a subpoena ordering the grand jury appearance of Thomas Sheridan Jr.,
who in 1992 hired Sutton Associates while acting as Michael Skakel's defense
"Any claim regarding a violation of the attorney-client privilege, if indeed
there is one, is to be litigated in the demanding state, which has been held by
the Court of Appeals to be the appropriate forum to adjudicate such claims,"
Adlerberg said in his Dec. 17 ruling.
In similar court proceedings in neighboring Nassau County, Gottlieb successfully
blocked a grand jury subpoena that had been issued to Sutton Associates
president James Murphy. In January, Judge Jerald Carter ruled he would not
enforce the order not because of a claimed privilege, but because Murphy had not
personally interviewed either Skakel brother and therefore was not a material
But in that same ruling, Carter said hearings he presided over had established
that two other Sutton Associates investigators - including Krebs - "are
witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the alleged Skakel interviews."
Although Mullen did not immediately rule on the motion to quash the subpoena, he
appeared to hint as to his eventual decision. "I went to school in Connecticut
for six years, and do you know what the nickname of the state is?" Mullen asked.
"It's the Constitution State. That's where it all started."
The judge's ruling is expected early next week.