Kennedy Nephew Skakel Arraigned
By DENISE LAVOIE, Associated Press Writer
STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) - Kennedy nephew Michael Skakel was arraigned today on a nearly 25-year-old murder charge, then approached the victim's mother and told her: ``You've got the wrong guy.''
Skakel, now 39, was arraigned as a juvenile in the October 1975 murder of Martha Moxley in the wealthy suburb of Greenwich. Both Skakel and Moxley were 15 at the time of the slaying.
In a simple, four-minute court appearance, Skakel heard the charge against read aloud and was advised of his rights. Skakel, nephew of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was arraigned as a juvenile because of his age at the time Martha died.
Because the case is in juvenile court, Skakel is entitled to a ``reasonable cause'' hearing, at which prosecutors must show there is sufficient evidence to proceed with the case. That hearing is scheduled for June 20.
Asked whether he had any questions, Skakel told Judge Maureen Dennis, ``Not at this time.''
A moment later, he approached Moxley's mother, Dorthy, and brother, John.
``I feel your pain,'' Skakel told Mrs. Moxley, ``but you've got the wrong guy.''
John Moxley said he told Skakel, ``We'll find out in court,'' and he dismissed Skakel's comments as ``just for himself - just theater.''
Mrs. Moxley said the remark made no difference because ``I really feel as thought I know what happened.''
Skakel's defense lawyer, Michael Sherman, said the remark to Mrs. Moxley was unrehearsed. ``He truly meant that,'' he said.
A juvenile court arraignment would ordinarily be closed, but Judge Maureen Dennis, acting on a request from five newspapers and The Associated Press, ruled last week that the media would be allowed in the courtroom.
The judge agreed that Skakel has already effectively waived his juvenile confidentiality rights, both because he is an adult and because his name and the charges against him are already well-known across the country.
Skakel denies any involvement in Moxley's death and wants the proceeding open so the public can hear his side of the story. The case went unsolved for more than two decades until an investigative grand jury was convened in June 1998.
Prosecutors said in court documents that they were told by former students at the Elan school in Poland Spring, Maine, that Skakel made ``admissions as to the murder of Martha Moxley'' while he was a student there from 1978 to 1980. Elan is a private school for teens with drug and alcohol problems.
Bridgeport State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict said Tuesday that trying a 25-year-old case would be difficult, but added: ``We did an awful lot of work in the case; we developed an awful lot of evidence in the grand jury.''
Skakel was arrested in January after Judge George Thim - acting as a one-man grand jury - ruled there was enough evidence to charge him.
Michael Skakel is the son of Rushton Skakel Sr., who is the brother of Kennedy's widow, Ethel.
Martha was found beaten to death with a golf club on her family's estate, across the street from the Skakel house. The 6-iron used to kill her was traced to a set owned by the Skakel family.
The reopening of the case followed the publication of books about the case, including one by former Los Angeles police Detective Mark Fuhrman that suggested that Michael Skakel murdered Martha in a fit of jealousy after seeing his brother, Thomas, kissing her. Prosecutors deny that Fuhrman's book had any influence on their investigation.
Fuhrman, who gained notoriety during the O.J. Simpson trial for racist remarks, has been hired by ABC to provide commentary on the case.
Before the court session today, Fuhrman blamed investigative mistakes for the delay in making an arrest.
``You walk into a house with a chandelier in the foyer that costs more than your whole house, that's intimidating,'' he said.