"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- client privilege.

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 Skakel family.

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 privilege."

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 attorneys.

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 attorney.

"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 witness.

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.