School officials confirm Skakel's expulsion
By Kevin McCallum - Stamford Advocate
Michael Skakel's attorney is "crazy" to deny that his client was ejected from a private school in 1978 for allegedly threatening a teacher's wife with a ski pole, a former administrator at the school said this week.
Michael Sherman last week told The Advocate that Skakel "categorically denied" any such incident ever took place, and that the 41-year-old Kennedy cousin left the boarding school because "he was failing."
But in subsequent interviews with The Advocate, additional administrators and students at the former Vershire School supported headmaster Richard Wright's explanation that Skakel was ejected immediately after a teacher's wife reported that Skakel had threatened her with a ski pole during a confrontation in a dormitory.
"There is no doubt that is why he was sent home," said Lissa Ganter, former admissions director at the school, which closed in 1988. "I think it was kind of a crazy statement for his lawyer to make."
Ganter, 61, who lives in Amherst, Mass., and works for an academic foundation, explained that she did not witness the incident, but recalls clearly that Skakel was ejected from the school as a direct result of the report of the incident made by Jane Taupier, wife of a teacher at the school. Taupier and her husband lived in and supervised Skakel's dorm.
"I only remember that he had threatened Jane with a ski pole," Ganter said. "What prompted it, I don't remember anymore."
Taupier has declined to comment. No one answered the door Wednesday at her two-story contemporary home on an unmarked rural road in Meriden, N.H.
Her husband, Michael Taupier, contacted at the nearby Kimball Union Academy, where he is head of the private boarding school's math department, also declined to comment. A fellow staff member at the $27,000-per-year school threatened to call security should attempts be made to speak with Michael Taupier.
The Taupiers have since hired an attorney, who has asked The Advocate not to attempt to contact them.
Skakel is charged with bludgeoning his Belle Haven neighbor, Martha Moxley, to death with a golf club when they were both 15.
Earlier this week, Sherman called the ski pole story "irrelevant" to his client's trial, which starts Tuesday at state Superior Court in Norwalk.
Before the story's publication, Sherman asked his client about the accusation, and Skakel denied it occurred. Sherman then advised the paper that such a "totally false" account would be "inflammatory and prejudicial" to his client and "in total disregard of any diligence in learning whether or not the story has any validity."
He said he would not comment about the allegation further unless The Advocate produced documentation of the alleged incident.
After learning that the headmaster of the school may have such records, Sherman said he "didn't care" about documentation from the school, and questioned the credibility of school officials.
Informed yesterday of the additional information gathered by The Advocate, Sherman refused to comment.
"I couldn't care less about this issue," he said. "This is about as significant as Hellman's changing the recipe for mayonnaise."
The former dean of students of the school confirmed the account.
"I would say what I read in The Advocate and the Boston Globe was correct," said the woman, who lives in Massachusetts and requested anonymity. "I think the sequence of events as the Wrights recalled them was right, and I concur."
One former student, John Sughrue, 39, said he recalls that Skakel was drinking the night of the incident and was "howling at the moon."
From his home in South Londonderry, Vt., Sughrue explained that he enrolled at the school at the same time as Skakel, in August of 1977, and was his roommate for a few days at the beginning of the semester.
Sughrue recalled that the last time he saw Skakel, several students were drinking outside the Hill Dorm where Skakel lived. Skakel was "on the periphery" of the group, appearing for brief periods and then going off on his own, Sughrue said.
Later, after the party moved inside the dorm, Sughrue said he and others saw Skakel "running around" and "banging on the doors in the bathroom."
"He really was not a bad kid, but he was a creep when he was drunk," said Sughrue, who now works at a snowboard company and at Stratton Mountain ski resort.
Sughrue, who acknowledges his own use of drugs and alcohol while at Vershire, said he feared the noise Skakel was making would cause the Taupiers to bust up the party, so he returned to his own dorm, The Ranch, later that night. He never saw Skakel again, he said.
The next day, Skakel was nowhere to be found, his dorm room was empty, and word was that he had been suspended.
"By lunch, I think he was gone," Sughrue said.
Several days later, Skakel was involved in a car accident in Windham, N.Y., and he was enrolled at the Elan School in Poland Springs, Maine, a substance abuse treatment center.
The prosecution's case relies heavily on testimony from former students of Elan, who, according to Skakel's arrest warrant, are expected to testify that he implicated himself in Moxley's murder while attending the school from 1978 to 1980.
Prosecutors have declined to comment about whether they might use the new information about the ski pole incident, though some attorneys have speculated that it could be used to rebut defense character witnesses.