Skakel libel case spurs threat of counter suit
By Cameron D. Martin - Greenwich Time
Sherman "Tad" Baldwin, who along with The Greenwich Post was sued for libel Thursday by Michael Skakel, lashed back yesterday at Skakel's attorney and at the newspaper, which retracted the article.
Skakel filed a lawsuit Thursday against the local weekly newspaper, its publisher Christopher Hagedorn, reporter Ken Borsuk, and Baldwin, claiming the jury pool in Skakel's upcoming trial may be tainted by the article printed in the May 25 edition.
Skakel, a nephew of the late U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial on charges that he killed Martha Moxley with a golf club when both their families lived in Belle Haven in 1975. No trial date has been set.
The Post article, citing Baldwin as a source, alleged that Michael Skakel was involved in the armed robbery of a hair salon on Greenwich Avenue in the weeks before the October 1975 slaying of Moxley.
"I stand by the story 100 percent, and it's time for Michael Skakel to tell the truth," Baldwin, now of Danbury, said yesterday.
The newspaper quoted Baldwin, who served a prison term for fraud, as saying Skakel and his brother, Thomas, robbed Lane's Hair Salon on Greenwich Avenue in October 1975.
There was no police report of such a robbery, the newspaper had acknowledged in its initial report, and in yesterday's edition the Greenwich Post issued the following retraction:
"The article reporting an armed robbery committed by Thomas and Michael Skakel was based on a source without credibility. The allegation is false and not based on any objective evidence. The source of the article, Tad Baldwin, is not reliable, according to law enforcement reports. In reviewing facts, Greenwich Post retracts any and all allegations of the reported armed robbery and apologizes for the false report."
Sherman yesterday said the retraction was "too little, too late."
Sherman acknowledged yesterday that his client's lawsuit has heightened awareness of Baldwin's claim. When the newspaper, which is mailed to all homes in Greenwich, printed the story, major news organizations had ignored it. Now, they are reporting the suit, and in connection with it, repeating the story.
"I am acutely aware that by bringing this lawsuit it brings more attention to the allegation," Sherman said. "But the allegation is absolutely so patently absurd and false that it can't be ignored.
"When someone levels a charge of this nature, you can't stick your head in the sand and hope no one sees it and that it will go away."
Sherman said the lawsuit was intended to help set the record straight.
It's "about getting a line in the sand that says, 'Hunting season is over with regard to Michael Skakel,' " the attorney said.
Meanwhile, Baldwin, a self-employed motion picture investment manager who says he wrote a screenplay based on the Moxley murder, said yesterday he intends to countersue Skakel for the lawsuit filed Thursday. Further, he said, he intends to file a separate libel suit against Sherman.
"The fact of the matter is that I have been repeatedly slandered by Mickey Sherman with lies and personal attacks," Baldwin said. "I really have no choice. His repeated attacks must stop."
Baldwin said the Greenwich Post caved to the pressure of the Skakel family, a charge Sherman adamantly denied.
Hagedorn, the weekly's publisher, also denied the charge and said, "I have nothing to say about Baldwin's counter suit É or anything past the retraction in the newspaper."
Borsuk, who wrote the article, had no comment on the suit yesterday.
Baldwin has retained Stamford attorney Peter Truebner, who declined to comment on the case because he had not sufficiently reviewed Skakel's lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.
Baldwin, who said he intends to hold a press conference early next week to discuss the lawsuits, has until July 31 to respond to Skakel's claims.
Frank Garr, the state's lead investigator in the case against Skakel, has said Baldwin once detoured the investigation by falsely claiming to know Moxley's killer. Baldwin claimed the killer was not Skakel, Garr said.
Yesterday, Baldwin again denied that he led the investigation astray, stating that he never claimed to know who murdered Moxley on Oct. 30, 1975.
"In no way did I claim that someone else would have done it," said Baldwin, who said he wrote his screenplay, "The Circle Game," while serving an 11-month federal prison sentence for fraud.