In open court, Skakel is arraigned
Tells Moxleys, "You've got the wrong guy."
By Peter Moore - Greenwich Post

Michael Skakel, a 39-year-old husband and father, went before a juvenile judge Tuesday and was arraigned in juvenile court for the murder of Belle Haven teen Martha Moxley; a crime prosecutors claim Skakel committed when he was 15.

Pursued by a handful of journalists who got beyond the Stamford courthouse sheriff's deputies, Skakel appeared weary and passive as he approached the Hoyt Street courthouse with his attorney Michael Sherman. He entered the building at around 1:40 p.m., about five minutes ahead of Dorthy Moxley, Martha's mother, and John Moxley, Martha's brother. Upon her arrival at the courthouse, Dorthy Moxley waved to the media and later, after the hearing, welcomed their presence.

"It's wonderful to see all of you here because you have made a big difference in this case," she said. John Moxley added that he hoped Skakel would be convicted of Martha's murder and receive the harshest possible sentence.

"They've put us through 25 years of hell," Moxley added.

In a brief, four-minute hearing, Skakel appeared before Judge Maureen Dennis, who did not require him to enter a plea, but simply allowed him to hear the murder charge against him and to hear his rights. The judge then asked Skakel if he had any questions.

"Not at this time," Skakel replied.

Then in a move that would stun even a seasoned courtroom observer, Skakel approached Dorthy Moxley.

"Dorthy, I feel your pain," Skakel said. "But you've got the wrong guy."

"We'll find out in court," replied John Moxley, interjecting on his mother's behalf. The mother of the murdered teen did not speak to Skakel, but later told reporters that she felt that Skakel's remark seemed contrived and rehearsed, not genuine. His attorney, Sherman, disagreed.

"It was not said in any contrived [manner]," Sherman said. "It was from the heart."

The family of Rushton Skakel Sr., brother-in-law of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, were neighbors to the Moxleys when Martha Moxley was beaten to death on Oct. 30, 1975 on the grounds of her family's Belle Haven estate. The murder weapon was determined to be a six-iron golf club taken from the Skakel household.

For years, the case remained unsolved, with many blaming the Greenwich police for mishandling the matter. Chief suspects in the killing for many years were Michael Skakel's older brother Thomas and Ken Littleton, the Skakel boys' live-in tutor.

In the mid-1990's, Michael Skakel began to emerge as a suspect, first after private detective reports showed that he lied to the police about his whereabouts on the night of the Moxley murder. Former residents of the Elan School, a then-treatment center (now boarding school) for out-of-control adolescents, also began to come forward, saying that Skakel had confessed to the murder while at Elan for alcohol abuse from 1978 to 1980. In mid-1998, State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict convened a one-man grand jury to determine if enough evidence existed to effect an arrest in the case.

Skakel was arrested on Jan. 19 as the result of the 18-month grand jury investigation in which the lone juror, Judge George N. Thim found probable cause for Skakel to be charged with murder. He was initially charged as a juvenile, but prosecutors have indicated a desire to move the case to adult court.

Skakel is free on $500,000 bail and faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the murder as an adult offender. He now lives in Hobe Sound, Fla. with his wife Margot and the couple's one-year-old son George.

Judge Dennis scheduled a "reasonable cause" hearing for June 20 to hear prosecutors' evidence against Skakel and see if enough exists to allow the case to move forward, possibly to adult court.

The case itself, though a juvenile matter, was open to media representatives because of a motion filed last month by five newspapers and the Associated Press to open hearings to the public due to Skakel's age today and his already-known identity as the Moxley murder suspect. Judge Dennis granted the motion last week.

Those outside the courthouse included both authors of two books on the Moxley case, former Greenwich News editor Tim Dumas and former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman. Both authors are now hired consultants on the case for TV networks, Fuhrman for ABC, Dumas for CBS. The two were remarkably friendly to each other, despite a known past rivalry, and even posed for a photograph together where Fuhrman put his arm around Dumas.

Fuhrman said that he believes enough evidence exists to convict Skakel and rattled off examples.

"Michael confesses several times, puts himself at the crime scene, lies to the police," Fuhrman said, also citing Michael Skakel's alleged feelings and psychological state at the time of the murder. He also pointed out how, in a recent book proposal about the Kennedy family, titled "Dead Man Talking," Skakel had admitted to being made to wear a sign in Elan which read: "I'm a rich, arrogant, spoiled brat. Ask me why I killed my friend Martha."

Sherman said he believed the testimony of former Elan students did not carry much weight. He did not lay out a specific strategy to how he might defend Skakel.

"Michael's best defense is that he did not commit this crime," Sherman said.