Prosecution rests its case Skakel has say on audio tape played at trial
By Kevin McCallum - Stamford Advocate
NORWALK -- The prosecution rested its murder case against Michael Skakel yesterday after playing a tape of the Kennedy cousin describing how he was drunk, high and "horny" on the night Martha Moxley was killed.
For 10 days, jurors have watched Skakel sit silently in the courtroom as witness after witness testified about his alleged involvement in his 15-year-old neighbor's death.
But yesterday was the first -- and likely only time -- jurors were able to hear Skakel's own account of his actions in Belle Haven on the night before Halloween, 1975.
Though he admitted no involvement in Moxley's murder on the tape, Skakel placed himself at the scene of the crime, confirmed he had a crush on Moxley and detailed how he masturbated in a tree outside the Moxley house.
"That's as close to a confession as we're going to get from Michael Skakel," John Moxley said after court adjourned for the day.
Senior Assistant State's Attorney Christopher Morano introduced the audio tape into evidence after Cambridge, Mass., writer Richard Hoffman testified that he began working with Skakel on a book in 1997.
During a long weekend at the Skakel family home in Windham, N.Y., Hoffman had Skakel speak into a tape recorder about his experiences. The tapes were to be used as "raw material" for a book about Skakel's life, Hoffman said.
Though it was not mentioned in court, the title of the book was to be "Dead Man Talking: A Kennedy Cousin Comes Clean," according to a proposal that was circulated to publishers.
The tapes of his interviews with Skakel were seized by Inspector Frank Garr after the investigator appeared at Hoffman's home with a subpoena, Hoffman said.
Skakel begins the 25-minute segment played for the jury by explaining that the night before Halloween, or Mischief Night, was "better than Christmas" for the Skakel kids.
"I mean, every night, we'd be out egging cars or being mischievous, and it was like letting off steam. . . . Mischief Night to us was like . . . New Year's Eve to an alcoholic," Skakel said.
Skakel said he would spend a week preparing smoke bombs and shaving cream bombs and gathering eggs for the "mayhem" the Skakels planned to unleash on the neighborhood.
"I mean, it was war time," he said.
That night, the family went with their new tutor, Kenneth Littleton, to the Belle Haven Club, where Skakel said he was drinking "Planters Punches" and "rum and tonics."
After returning home, Skakel recalled that Moxley and several of her friends visited before the pair went to smoke a cigarette in his father's Lincoln, which the children called the "lust mobile." Skakel said he earlier told Littleton that Moxley was "hot."
While in the car, Skakel encouraged Moxley to come with him to his cousin's home in backcountry Greenwich, but she declined, blaming her curfew, Skakel recalled.
"I was like, OK, well then . . . let's go trick or treating tomorrow night, and we'll wreck the place.' And she said, 'OK, great,' " Skakel recalled.
He then went to his cousin's home and left Moxley and her friends behind with his brother, Tommy, he said.
Skakel next launched into an elaborate description of the home of his cousin Jimmy Terrien, their drinking and smoking pot there, and being driven back to Belle Haven by his drunken, unlicensed siblings.
The lights were out when he returned home, and he got something to eat and went to bed, he said.
"I know a part of me just wanted to go to sleep, and another part of me . . . got horny," Skakel said.
Despite his fear of the dark, he decided to go out again to an unidentified woman's home, he said.
"I ran to that lady's house, and you know, I was like spying in her window, and hoping to see her naked," he said.
Since he was drunk and therefore "couldn't get it up," Skakel got a better idea.
"I said ' . . . Martha likes me. I'll go, I'll go get a kiss from Martha,' " he said. "I'll be bold tonight."
Once at the Moxley home, Skakel said he climbed one of the "huge cedar trees" next to the front door, and called her name and threw rocks and sticks at what he thought was Moxley's window.
He later learned he was at the wrong window, he said.
"I don't know, I guess I'm a little out of my mind, because I was drunk and high, I pulled my pants down, I masturbated for 30 seconds in the tree and I went 'This is crazy. If they catch me, they're going to think I'm nuts,' " he said.
Skakel said he had a "moment of clarity," climbed down the tree, and started to return home, crossing the oval island in the Moxley's circular driveway.
"It's really dark, and when I started walking through (the oval) something in me said 'Don't go in the dark over there,' " Skakel said.
Pieces of the 6-iron that was used to kill Moxley were discovered the next day in the oval. Blood was also discovered on the driveway in the area, experts earlier testified.
Moxley's body was discovered the next day under the low-hanging boughs of a large nearby pine tree.
Sensing a presence in the dark area, Skakel said, he ran into the street, and standing under the street light, yelled obscenities and threw rocks into the darkness.
"I ran home and I remember thinking, 'Oh my God, I hope to God nobody saw me,' " he said.
A feeling of "panic" came over him later that night, and he later worried about being accused of Moxley's murder.
"I remember thinking, 'Oh my God, if I tell anybody that I was out that night, they're gonna say I did it,' " he said.
Skakel also expressed fear about his reputation if people found out he was a peeping Tom.
"I'd looked at all my friends' mothers, in their window(s), so I'm going, 'Oh great, everybody's going to think I'm a pervert . . . ,' " he said. "I think about it now in retrospect, I was just looking for a mom."
Defense attorney Michael Sherman asked Hoffman if Skakel ever told him he committed the murder and Hoffman answered "no."
Sherman said Michael would not be taking the stand in his own defense because "he just did" in the tapes.
Skakel stands by the account he gave to Hoffman, Sherman said.
"That's his story," Sherman said.
After hearing the tape, Moxley's mother, Dorthy, said she thought it was significant.
"Michael Skakel has lied since day one," she said. "He put himself at our house that night . . . . I really think we have a great case. I feel good."
The conclusion of the prosecution's case left Sherman "as confident as ever," he said.
Prosecutors declined to comment.
Earlier in the day, part-time model and South Boston, Mass., resident Gerrane Ridge testified that Skakel attended a party at her home back in 1997, and she overheard him remark about the murder.
"I don't know the whole statement he said, but as I walked in the room, I recall him saying in jest, 'Ask me why I killed my neighbor,' " followed by laughter, Ridge said.
Ridge claimed she never heard Skakel say anything more about the case. State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict tried to impeach her testimony on this point, playing her a taped conversation in which she relays a host of other details of what she says she overheard Skakel say that night.
Ridge claimed she was lying during that conversation with her friend, a fashion photographer.
"I did make up stuff to try to appear to be knowledgeable," Ridge said on cross-examination.
Sherman would not say whom he intends to call as his first witness today. He did, however, tell Judge John Kavanewsky Jr. he intended to make a motion at 10 a.m. Skakel family attorney Emanuel Margolis predicted Sherman will ask the judge to dismiss the case.
-- Staff writer Lindsay Faber contributed to this report.