Skakel team pleads for leniency
By Kevin McCallum - Stamford Advocate

NORWALK -- Superior Court Judge John Kavanewsky should show leniency when sentencing Michael Skakel today for the murder of Martha Moxley because he has triumphed over an abusive, dysfunctional childhood to become a compassionate man and loving father who poses no danger to society, his attorneys argued in hundreds of pages of court documents filed yesterday.

Citing more than 160 pages of letters in support of the 41-year-old Kennedy cousin, the attorneys urged Kavanewsky to reject a life sentence and rather sentence Skakel to between 10 and 15 years in prison.

"Based on the manner in which Mr. Skakel has lived his life over the past twenty years, as well as the voluminous letters presented to the Court in his support, it is clear that Mr. Skakel poses no threat to society," Hartford attorneys Hope Seeley and Hubert Santos argued in more than 200 pages of motions filed with the court shortly before 4 p.m. yesterday.

The attorneys cite Skakel's "history of public service," "dedication to Alcoholics Anonymous," two-year "imprisonment" at the Elan School and devotion to his 3-year-old son as reasons the judge should hand down the minimum sentence allowable under 1975 law.

Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, was convicted June 7 of beating Moxley to death with a golf club on Oct. 30, 1975, near their homes in the Belle Haven section of Greenwich.

Sentencing is set for 10 a.m. today in state Superior Court in Norwalk. The judge is expected to hear arguments on several motions before sentencing Skakel. It is unclear if more than one day will be required.

Using the letters as a foundation, the attorneys describe Skakel's life and development from his birth on Sept. 19, 1960, at Greenwich Hospital,to his conviction for murder.

"Michael's siblings recalled that their parents were frequently absent in the home during Michael's early childhood development," the motion states. "His older siblings reported that after Michael was born, his parents left on vacation."

The motion describes Skakel's father, Rushton Skakel Sr., as an alcoholic and a "rage-aholic," who beat Skakel with a hairbrush, kicked him repeatedly after a Christmas play, and burned him with matches.

"This type of abuse was carried out numerous times during Michael's youth, to the point that he often slept in his closet," according to the motion.

The motion traces Skakel's life through the death of his mother, Anne, from brain cancer in 1972, and through his attendance at numerous private schools -- including the Elan School, a program for troubled youth in Poland Springs, Maine, that was highlighted during his five-week trial.

The attorneys argue that the abuse he endured there caused "life-time damage" that should be taken into account by Kavanewsky.

In spite of these and other troubles, Skakel battled with and triumphed over his dyslexia and alcoholism to graduate from college and devote his life to helping others, the motion argues. His volunteer activities have included fixing the roof of a poor woman's house, giving his jacket to a cold homeless man in New York and dressing up as the Easter Bunny to visit hospitalized children.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer, was one of those who submitted letters in support of Skakel.

"The portrait of Michael painted at trial and by his detractors in the national press could not be farther from the truth," Kennedy wrote. "Michael is a kind and gentle man, utterly unspoiled and hardworking."

While many of the letters deal primarily with Skakel's character as an adult and avoid claims of his innocence, Thomas Skakel insists his younger bother was wrongfully convicted.

"Your Honor, I know that my brother Michael had absolutely nothing to do with this horrible crime, he is innocent!" Thomas Skakel wrote, noting that he was prepared to testify at the trial but prosecutors never called him.

Shortly after Skakel's conviction, the Skakel family initiated a campaign to encourage as many people as possible to submit letters of support to the court. In addition to requesting money to assist in Skakel's defense, an e-mail from Stephen Skakel gave advice on composing such letters.

Several are striking in their eloquence.

"Whatever his shortcomings may have been -- and despite the unthinkable finding of his responsibility for an abhorrent crime -- I respectfully ask that you consider the totality of Michael's youthfulness at the time of the alleged offense, the moral corruption manifested in that dissolute stage of his youthful life, and his metamorphosis from such amoral times to the exemplar model that he now offers in his own conduct and as a worthy example of society-building values," wrote Skakel's cousin, Georgeann Skakel Dowdle, who testified in the case.

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