"Judge: Skakel P.I. Must Testify in Probe"
By J.A. Johnson Jr., Greenwich Time

A former private investigator who interviewed two Kennedy nephews in the 1975 Martha Moxley murder must appear this month before the Connecticut grand jury that is probing the Greenwich girl's death, a New York judge ruled Friday.

The ruling by Suffolk County Judge Michael Mullen denied a motion by a lawyer representing suspects Michael and Thomas Skakel to quash a subpoena - signed in September by a Connecticut judge - that had been served to the investigator, Willis Krebs.

The Skakels are nephews of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, widow of U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy.

Commack, N.Y., attorney Robert Gottlieb had argued in Suffolk County Court last week that the subpoena should be quashed because Krebs interviewed the Skakel brothers on behalf of the suspects' defense lawyers, making the interviews confidential under the attorney-client privilege.

"This court refuses to do so," Mullen states in his two-page decision not to quash the subpoena. "My judicial colleague in Connecticut is quite capable of deciding whether the attorney-client (privilege) applies under the circumstances of this case."

The judge's ruling orders Krebs to appear before the grand jury in Bridgeport on Wednesday. According to Gottlieb, however, Krebs will be on vacation that date, and he has reached an agreement with Connecticut State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict that the witness will appear March 24 instead. Benedict, who is assisting the grand jury, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Gottlieb said he plans on Monday to file an application to stay Mullen's order pending an appeal with the state Supreme Court Appellate Division. "Even if the New York Courts ultimately require Mr. Krebs' appearance in Connecticut, I have great confidence that the Connecticut courts will never authorize a breach in the attorney-client privilege," Gottlieb said.

Krebs is a former employee of the Jericho, N.Y., Sutton Associates private detective agency, hired to investigate the Moxley murder in 1992 by lawyers representing the Skakel brothers. Connecticut prosecutors allege that both brothers significantly changed the alibis they had given police in 1975 when Krebs interviewed them.

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, according to police. Police identified the murder weapon as a 6-iron from a set of golf clubs owned by the Skakel family, who lived across the street from the Moxleys in Belle Haven.

Although police have said both Skakels initially claimed to have been nowhere near the Oct. 30, 1975, crime scene, prosecutors allege that the brothers told Krebs of either being at the crime scene or with the victim at the estimated time of the murder.

Mullen states in his ruling that under New York law, courts must uphold another state's subpoena when a judge from that state deems the requested witness "material and necessary" for a grand jury investigation. He said that requirement was met when Connecticut Superior Court Judge John Ronan signed Krebs' subpoena on Sept. 22.

"That's what was done here," Mullen wrote. "Judge Ronan certified that Willis Krebs was a material witness in a grand jury investigation in Connecticut ... that his testimony was necessary there in Connecticut." Even so, the New York judge took it upon himself to note that "it is clear from his affidavit that Krebs' testimony would be material."

Last week, Krebs, a former New York City police officer who now works for the Suffolk County district attorney's white-collar crime unit, submitted an affidavit in which he stated that he had interviewed Thomas Skakel twice and Michael Skakel once. The affidavit stated: "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."

Mullen further observed that it was the Skakels' lawyer who objected to the subpoena, not the witness. "Interestingly, it was not Krebs who moved to quash, but attorneys for the subjects of the investigation," Mullen wrote.