Skakel witness drops bombshell
By J.A. Johnson Jr. - Greenwich Time

STAMFORD - A witness who claims Michael Skakel confessed to killing Greenwich teenager Martha Moxley admitted yesterday he shot heroin just before telling a grand jury about Skakel's alleged confession.

Gregory Coleman, 39, who has admitted to being a crack cocaine and heroin addict, recounted his drug use in testimony during the opening day of a probable cause hearing that will determine whether there is sufficient evidence for Skakel, a nephew of the late Robert F. Kennedy, to stand trial in the October 1975 slaying.

Coleman testified that in 1978, while he and Skakel were residents of the Elan School substance abuse rehabilitation facility in Maine, Skakel said that because 15-year-old Moxley had "spurned his advances, he drove her skull in with a golf club."s

Coleman further testified that Skakel bragged, "I'm going to get away with murder because I'm a Kennedy."

Coleman's admission of drug use came during a cross-examination attack on his credibility by Skakel defense attorney Michael Sherman.

Confronting Coleman with inconsistent statements given during previous court proceedings, Sherman asked Coleman, "So, which story are we giving today?"

Among the inconsistencies Coleman admitted to yesterday were the number of times he said he heard Skakel confess. Although Coleman testified yesterday he had heard two such confessions, Sherman read from court transcripts showing Coleman told the grand jury he'd heard as many as six confessions.

Asked to explain the conflicting testimony, Coleman replied, "I was on drugs when I came before the grand jury."

Coleman said he shot up "an average" dose of heroin at a hotel across the street from the Bridgeport courthouse where the grand jury was convened in 1998. The one-judge grand jury issued a report that was used to obtain a warrant for Skakel's arrest in January 2000.

Coleman said the amount of heroin he took was not sufficient to make him high.

"I went into the (grand jury) hearing sick from withdrawal," he said.

"Are you on drugs now?" Sherman asked the witness.

"Give me a urine test," Coleman shot back.

Yesterday's proceeding was cut short due to a scheduling conflict on the part of the presiding judge, John Kavanewsky Jr. Just prior to adjourning for the day, Kavanewsky asked Sherman whether he was done cross-examining Coleman.

"Your honor, I am far from being done," the defense attorney replied.

Immediately following the three-hour hearing, Skakel spoke with his sister, Julie, and two of his brothers, Stephen and John, in the hallway outside the courtroom. He was visibly upset about Coleman's disclosure.

"(Coleman) needs to be drug tested," Skakel told them.

State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict refused to say whether he thought Coleman's testimony damaged the case against Skakel.

"That's for the judge to decide," he said after the hearing.

The victim's mother, Dorthy Moxley, also declined comment.

"I'll be glad when this is all over," she said.

Moxley added, "I think we're really going to get there," referring to a trial.

Coleman was the fourth state witness to take the stand yesterday. He was preceded by Sheila McGuire, who was the 15-year-old neighbor who found Moxley's battered body beneath a pine tree on the front lawn of the Moxley property the afternoon of Oct. 31, 1975. Prosecutors allege Skakel beat Moxley to death with a golf club the previous evening.

Also testifying were two former Greenwich police officials who were part of the initial homicide investigation, retired chief Thomas Keegan and retired detective James Lunney. Both witnesses said the initial homicide investigation found no incriminating forensic or other evidence.

"Did you ever find any evidence whatsoever that Michael Skakel did this crime?" Sherman asked.

"At the time, no," Lunney answered.

Cross-examination of Coleman is expected to resume this morning, and he is expected to be followed by another former Elan School resident, John Higgins. In a preliminary hearing last June in juvenile court, Higgins testified Skakel "related to me that he had been involved in the murder of someone."

Former Greenwich resident Andrew Pugh, a childhood friend of Skakel's who also testified in June, is expected to testify for the state as well.

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